The 'He Gets Us' Super Bowl Ad Fails at Its Message and Misrepresents Jesus

He Gets Us is an organization that claims to want to “move beyond the mess of our current cultural moment to a place where all of us are invited to rediscover the love story of Jesus. Christians, non-Christians, and everybody in between” spent a ton of money to run an ad in the Sunday Super Bowl about Jesus and “foot washing.” They did a similarly messaged ad for last year’s Super Bowl, and it stirred controversy but apparently didn’t do much to move anyone past “our cultural moment.” As far as I can see, we are still taking sides and waging wars from our silos. But, if at first you don’t succeed, right? 

Many are debating this Super Bowl ad too, and even some Christians are claiming it’s a “good message” and that we need to celebrate that Jesus is even being mentioned.

I don’t think so.

The Jesus that He Gets Us claims to represent is not the Jesus that Christians serve and worship. It is not the Lord and Savior of the world. The organization reduces Jesus to some anemic do-gooder (pun intended) who just wants us to be nice to everyone and offers bromides they base on the work of Jesus rather than work performed through his transformative power. 

We look at the biography of Jesus through a modern lens to find new relevance in often overlooked moments and themes from his life.

He Gets Us reduces Jesus to good works and words, when Jesus’ good works and words had a specific purpose: to glorify God and bring the lost to repentance. Why is the world divided and hateful? It’s not because we need to be nicer to each other, it’s because we’re pretty much incapable of it without the saving work of Jesus Christ. The Jesus that He Gets Us claims to want to illuminate is not the Jesus we serve. For He Gets Us to peddle otherwise, no matter how well-intentioned, is heresy.


This is from the blurb below the video ad.

The night before he died, Jesus got his friends and followers together and washed their feet as a symbolic example of how they should humble themselves while dignifying and valuing others. How would our contentious world change if people, especially those with opposing ideologies, took off their shoes and washed each other’s feet? 

It is interesting how He Gets Us is taking a symbolic act done in a private setting among believers to push their message. This would be akin to someone coming to your family‘s Thanksgiving dinner and noting that your family exchanges gold rings. Then that person goes out and says that since your family gives out gold rings to each other, that everyone ought to give gold rings to total strangers and anyone who wants them. It is classic sleight of hand. 

He Gets Us goes into even more detail on their thought process in the linked article called, “What Is Foot Washing and What Does It Symbolize?”:

As we explored creative ideas, we recalled the story of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet and realized this was the perfect example of how we should treat one another, even those people with whom we don’t see eye to eye. Jesus had washed Peter’s feet, a loyal friend who would publicly deny that he knew Jesus later that very night. And even more astoundingly, Jesus washed Judas Iscariot’s feet, the one who would betray him for 30 pieces of silver.

Peter denied Jesus after Jesus washed his feet. Judas betrayed Jesus after Jesus washed his feet. The act was done for His Disciples only with no qualifiers on past or future actions—just like family. It was family business for those who were part of the family: the 12 men and women he had chosen and to whom he revealed his most intimate self. If you read the text in John 13:12-14, Jesus speaks about how they are to treat each other. No mention of the world outside of their circle. 

When Jesus had washed their feet and put on His outer garments, He reclined with them again and asked, “Do you know what I have done for you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord, and rightly so, because I am. 14 So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15I have set you an example so that you should do as I have done for you. 

He Gets Us is incorrect in extrapolating a symbolic act done among intimates with a symbolic act we share with the world. There is a huge difference between the Beatitudes and the Parables, which Jesus spoke in front of crowds, and the words recorded in John chapters 13-17. All of this instruction from Jesus was to His DISCIPLES. Not the world, not random people who just happened along, not publicans and sinners. Not even to the Pharisees or teachers of the law.

Of note, this lesson to the Disciples doesn’t appear in any other gospel except the Gospel of John. This act is also specific to the Lord’s Supper. We have no record in any of the gospels that Jesus does this symbolic act at any other time, in any other context, with any other people. Like the texts from John 13-17, it was part of preparing His disciples to continue His work on earth because Jesus was about to give His life for the sins of the world.

Here is another sleight of hand that He Gets Us uses.

The disciples considered Jesus not only to be their master or religious leader but also, most even revered him as the promised Messiah — a long-awaited king who would, according to their prophecy, deliver Israel from its oppressors, in this time period, the Romans. When Jesus offered to wash his disciples’ feet, it was so antithetical to their way of thinking that some initially declined his offer

There is no record that anyone but Peter declined the offer. Once again, this is a stretch in order to reinforce their fallacious premise.

But Jesus explained, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you should wash one another’s feet.” John 13:14. Not only was Jesus teaching them that a true leader should be willing to humble himself or herself and serve all, but also that they should be willing to wash one another’s feet. Foot washing required humility on the part of both parties: the one willing to wash another’s feet and also the one willing to have their feet washed. It was an act of mutual admiration. Jesus was shedding any notion of rank or caste among his disciples.

Here is where He Gets Us reduces Jesus and reduces the symbolic act of Jesus washing His Disciples’ feet. Jesus was signifying that there is only ONE Lord of all, and it is He. As our Lord He humbled himself: not out of “mutual admiration,” but to reinforce the lesson Jesus taught HIS DISCIPLES (not the crowds) that is paralleled in the other gospels:

Matthew 20:26,27
But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; …

Mark 10:43,44
But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: …

Luke 22:26,27
But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve…

This false Christ being peddled by He Gets Us is Jesus as Bro or Cohort, not Jesus as Savior. And Jesus our Savior is the one being represented in these passages on His way to Calvary. The He Gets Us representation robs this beautiful symbol of unity among the brethren and how we are to treat each other as believers for the purpose of effectively doing His will, and reduces it to, “practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty.” Another empty bromide that needs to be retired. 

How would our contentious world change if we washed one another’s feet, not literally, but figuratively? Figurative foot washing can be as simple as giving a compliment to a co-worker or paying for a stranger’s lunch. It can also be as difficult as not responding to someone who’s criticizing you or reaching out to an estranged family member. Acts of kindness done out of humility and respect for another person could be considered the equivalent of foot washing.

Our friend and media personality Kira Davis asked a pivotal question.

I wanna see this ad but with all the roles reversed. Does that change Jesus for the HeGetsUs folks? Feel’s like I already know the answer.

What an excellent challenge for He Gets Us, as they pat themselves on the back for supposedly provoking thought (the opposite of the “humility” they claim to want to foster). If the roles were reversed in these images, would their organization still feel the same? Why did they not juxtapose some of the images? How about, a trans man washing the feet of a biological woman? Say, Riley Gaines?

A gang banger washing the feet of a police officer? An illegal immigrant washing the feet of a Border Patrol officer? 

If it’s truly about removing divisiveness, then make it matter for all the parties involved, because it’s not just one side spewing hate. This ad is lopsided because it fails to represent this.

Acts of kindness done out of humility and respect for another person could be considered the equivalent of foot washing.

Honestly, images of people washing each other’s feet look a little strange and disconcerting because it’s not part of our modern-day customs. But there’s also something beautiful and profound in each image. Our hope is that our latest commercials will stimulate both societal discussion and individual self-reflection about “who is my neighbor?” and how each of us can love our neighbor even as we have differences and serve one another with more kindness and respect.

He Gets Us could have delivered their message without bastardizing the gospel and misrepresenting Jesus. In Jesus’ prayer to the Father in John 17:18-20, before he was about to go to the cross, he asked (Amplified translation):

 Just as You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And so for their sake and on their behalf I sanctify (dedicate, consecrate) Myself, that they also may be sanctified (dedicated, consecrated, made holy) in the Truth.

Neither for these alone do I pray [it is not for their sake only that I make this request], but also for all those who will ever come to believe in (trust in, cling to, rely on) Me through their word and teaching,

The Foot Washing, the humility, the words that Jesus spoke were for the benefit of His Disciples so that His Disciples could preach Jesus to the outside world. For an organization that claims that “many have relegated Jesus from the world’s greatest love story to just another tactic used to intensify our deep cultural divisions,” He Gets Us just continues in this pattern with their misinterpretation of a sacred act between the Savior and His Disciples. Christ followers must not only understand what the word of God says, but how to confront these false arguments with truth and not be ashamed in doing so. There’s nothing hateful or divisive about that. 

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