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He Gets Us: A Hot Take

I have a confession:

I did not watch the Super Bowl.

We thought about it. You know, just to be normal Americans, but after getting the kids to bed we learned that it was not available on any of the streaming services we already pay for.

The next day, I did some quick Googling and social media browsing to get the highlights—who won, the funniest commercials (Kawasaki mullet?), the photo of Kelce shouting at coach Reid, and the He Gets Us ad. Interestingly, the He Gets Us ad provoked some strong opinions from people.

I am a recovering opinion dispenser, but, I have a few thoughts about the responses I saw regarding the ad. You can watch the ad here. In short, the ad depicts people washing the feet of their ideological, racial, national, or religious enemy. The ad ends with this caption:

Jesus didn’t teach hate. He washed feet.

He Gets Us. All of Us. Jesus.

The Too Much Grace Response

One of the responses to the ad is, frankly, getting old. It’s the “don’t forget how much God hates sin” and “ yes, God is gracious, but…wrath” and “they’re watering down the gospel to make it palatable” rhetoric. I get really sad about this and I will break down some of the reasons reasons I think this criticism of the ad is just plain wrongheaded.

Before I do, I just want to say that I am really discouraged by all of the self-proclaimed doctrine police and heresy hunters on the internet. I sense so much arrogance and self-righteousness from people sometimes.

One of the criticisms I saw seemed to begin with the premise that washing the feet of someone who is pregnant out of wedlock or involved in other sexual sins or struggling with addiction is to also condone depicted sin. From there, the claim was made that Jesus wouldn’t wash the feet of sinners. Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, the person proceeded to clarify.

The big problem with this is that John’s gospel makes it pretty clear that Judas was in the upper room still when Jesus washed the disciples feet. And John makes it clear that Jesus already knew of Judas’ intentions.

Think about that. Jesus did wash his own betrayers feet.

So, to be explicitly clear here: Unless betraying Jesus is not a “sin,” Jesus did, in fact—according to John’s gospel, wash the feet of a person harboring unrepentant sin in their heart.

So the notion that Jesus wouldn’t wash the feet of the people depicted in the ad because of whatever presumable sin is in their life is just…not biblical.

Furthermore, one criticism I read had to do with God not needing a PR agent to make the message more palatable for people. The ironic reality about this person’s opinion is that this person was themselves being a PR agent. They just think God needs help upholding his wrath and holiness rather than grace and love. The statement was ironically hypocritical.

I agree. God doesn’t need a PR agent. But, Paul wrote to the Jesus followers at Corinth that we are “ambassadors” or “representatives” of Christ. Jesus called us to be salt and light. So, how we proclaim Jesus does matter.

I volunteer in a Jail Ministry and our church invites a number of people without homes to join our worship gathering on Sundays. What I have found is that most people actually have gotten the message loud and clear—“YOU ARE A WRETCHED SINNER.” I have listened to inmates wrestle with receiving God’s forgiveness because they struggle to forgive themselves. Where have they gotten this idea that they are too far from the reach of God’s grace and Jesus’ love?

Paul wrote that it is “his kindness that leads us to repentance.” James wrote that “mercy triumphs over judgment.” Jesus himself, quoting Hosea 6:6, said, “Learn what this means: I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” On the cross, before the sacrificial death, Jesus proclaimed “Father, forgive them, for they do not know…” Jesus, who is God…so God, declared forgiveness over people actively involved in killing him. He proclaimed forgiveness for their ignorance. (2 Corinthians 5:20;  Romans 2:4;  James 2:13;  Matthew 9:13;  Luke 23:34)

I am also reminded of the scene when Jesus called Matthew the tax collector. Jesus simply tells him to “Follow me.” He doesn’t berate him for so assimilating to the pagan, Roman culture that he went by the Greek name Matthew instead of the Hebrew name Levi. He doesn’t tell him to repent in sackcloth and ashes for his exploitation and greed before he even thinks about associating with him. No. He invites him to follow him and then attends a dinner party at Matthew’s house with other tax collectors and sinners. You know who was upset that Jesus was eating with tax collectors and sinners? The Pharisees (see Matthew 9:9-13).

Maybe the people who are so concerned with being biblical are actually failing to be Christ-like? Perhaps they sound more like the Pharisees than Jesus?

The Too Much Money Response

The other response to the ad questions the amount of money spent on the ad. Super Bowl commercial spots are notoriously costly. A 30 second ad costs roughly $7 million. One author captures the sentiment pretty clearly, “Millions of dollars on Super Bowl ads promoting Jesus would have been better spent on housing those sleeping outdoors and feeding those who are hungry.”

I resonate more easily with this criticism. I believe caring for the poor is a pretty significant theme in both the Hebrew Scriptures and Apostle’s writings.

But, I also understand the rational of those behind the He Gets Us campaign. Why do companies justify spending that much money on Super Bowl ads? The return on the investment justifies the marketing cost. The Super Bowl is the most watched media program of the year. As of 2021, US population estimations were at about 332 million. The 2024 Super Bowl was estimated to have been viewed by more than 123 million people. That comes out to be about 37% of the US population tuned into the Super Bowl.

This is arguably a false equivalency, but, for the sake of making a point, Paul’s missionary journeys cost money. He obviously felt the return on his investment of traveling the Roman Empire was worth the travel costs. If there was a way to alert 123 million people to the love of Jesus, what amount of cost would be worth it?

Again, I am very sympathetic to the criticism that the money could be spent elsewhere. However, I see how some could justify the cost considering for-profit companies do it all the time. If Doritos thinks it is worth the cost because their ad will plant the idea in people’s minds to buy more Doritos, then maybe there is something to that.

I don’t know…

The Fruit Response

What I do know is that I have a good friend who recently had a profound encounter with Jesus and is now a Jesus follower. He shared with me that the ad did provoke some of the people he worked with and some of his unbelieving friends to ask questions. The door was opened—by them—for conversation about Jesus. I am thankful for that and so is he.

He’s not the only person either. I know of others who have had an opportunity to talk about Jesus because the He Gets Us ad was provocative and subversive. And, I just want to point out that it was thoroughly in line with the sort of gospel message Jesus proclaimed. Jesus proclaimed the gospel before his death and resurrection. So, if our “gospel” is only about the atonement, then we are not preaching what Jesus preached.

Jesus’ teachings about loving one’s enemies, praying for persecutors, and forgiving those who hurt us was central to the Way. And, they were offensive to a Jewish people who were suffering under the oppression of Rome. Jesus’ teachings, like the ad, were provocative and subversive. Paul and Peter, both taking a page out of Jesus’ book, taught followers to not repay evil for evil (see Romans 12:17-21, 1 Peter 3:9-14).

When John writes about Jesus washing the disciples feet, he frames it as him demonstrating his love for his disciples (see John 13). In Philippians 2, Paul writes about Jesus taking on the form of a servant. This no doubt called to mind this sacred moment when Jesus dressed down the the garments of a slave and washed his disciples feet.

If we take this scene—of Jesus demonstrating humble, self-giving love by washing feet—as an interpretive lens through which we also see his commands to love our neighbor and enemies, then this ad is quite powerful and on point. The He Gets Us ad depicted idealogical enemies washing one another’s feet. Perhaps, the gospel wasn’t watered down, but communicated with convicting clarity. Perhaps our offense at some of the “kinds of people” depicted says more about us than those behind the ad.

At least, that is my opinion. Which, may not be a popular opinion. Hopefully, I added some perspective and didn’t just ad to the noise. Jesus knows we need less resounding gongs and more melodies of Kingdom love in this world.


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