Why ‘He Gets Us’ Doesn’t Get Jesus

The recent ad campaign presents an opportunity for us to ask whether we truly understand the biblical gospel.

There’s no better time to share the gospel than when 123.4 million people are watching.

If you didn’t catch the “He Gets Us” commercials during their 2024 Super Bowl premiere, perhaps you’ve seen them replayed by numerous commentators since.

The ad most discussed shows a series of images of various figures washing the feet of their would-be opponents—including a woman washing the feet of a young mother at an abortion clinic, an oil well worker washing the feet of a climate change protester, and a priest washing the feet of a homosexual man.

The campaign offers us an important opportunity to evaluate what we believe about evangelism. It’s a Rorschach test—a chance for us to see how good we are at spotting the true gospel and how well we can identify counterfeits.

First, some qualifications. It’s gloriously true that Jesus radically loved his enemies—namely, us (Romans 5:10). He stooped down to wash the feet of sinners, including even Judas Iscariot. It’s difficult to overstate the lovingkindness of God, which often looks like moral compromise to Pharisees.

We can also reflect, with the Apostle Paul, that “whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice” (Philippians 1:18).

But the question is whether indeed it is Christ who is portrayed or a mere facsimile.

The ad concludes, “Jesus didn’t teach hate. He washed feet.” But in a few senses, Jesus did preach hate. He preached that if we do not hate our own families and lives in comparison to our loyalty to him, then we are unworthy to be called his disciples (Luke 14:26). He preached that we should hate sin enough to drive us to extreme measures to put it to death in our own lives (Mark 9:43). And the Spirit of Jesus—that is, the Holy Spirit—inspired these words elsewhere in Scripture:

  • “Arise, O LORD! . . . [Y]ou strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked.” (Psalm 3:7)
  • “[T]he LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.” (Psalm 5:6)
  • “O you who love the LORD, hate evil!” (Psalm 97:10)
  • “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” (Romans 12:9)

The Jesus of Scripture is the incarnate Son of God—a God who is not only loving but also holy, not only merciful but also just. He is Savior and Lord. He is the Lamb that was slain and the roaring Lion of Judah. His first coming to earth was in humility and grace; he returns riding a warhorse and wearing a garment stained with the blood of his foes (Revelation 19:11-16). He makes a new heaven and earth and casts his enemies into a lake of fire (see Revelation 20-22).

“The Jesus of Scripture is the incarnate Son of God—a God who is not only loving but also holy, not only merciful but also just. He is Savior and Lord. He is the Lamb that was slain and the roaring Lion of Judah.”

A Jesus with no wrath against sin and no command to repent is the sort of Jesus venerated by a religion of “cheap grace,” defined by Dietrich Bonhoeffer as follows:

“Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession . . . Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

Further, the “He Gets Us” ads run safely with the grain of our culture, not against it. Many of those shown having their feet washed are Western culture’s celebrated elites—namely, those who applaud abortion, idolize nature, and celebrate sexual immorality. Such segments are the priestly caste of secular society, and as a result, there is little subversive or countercultural about an attempted gospel witness that genuflects to them. Imagine the Parable of the Good Samaritan where the Levite is the hero instead of the Samaritan, or the Parable of the Prodigal Son where the faithful, elder son gets the party at the end.

Christians are indeed commanded to love their enemies, including their cultural enemies. This love should be of a sort that is even willing to stoop and serve. But to show such sacrificial love to our enemies means persistently proclaiming the gospel to them—warning them concerning the wrath of God, pleading with them to repent, and exalting Christ as both the all-sufficient Savior and the reigning Lord. To simply inform sinners that God loves them falls short of the biblical gospel with which we’ve been entrusted.

“[T]o show such sacrificial love to our enemies means persistently proclaiming the gospel to them.”

When the Lord Jesus Christ washed his disciples’ feet, he wasn’t relinquishing his authority over their lives or announcing a new era of tolerance. Rather, he was teaching them that they needed to be washed of their sins:

“He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, do you wash my feet?’ Jesus answered him, ‘What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.’ Peter said to him, ‘You shall never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered him, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.’ Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!’” (John 13:6-9)

The true and better washing was about to be accomplished, as Christ was to pour out his lifeblood on the cross for the salvation of the nations. And those who receive the benefits of this washing are those who repent and rely in faith upon Christ—not who persist impenitently in sin.

(This message, unfortunately, does not come through in the recent “He Gets Us” ads. It does come through in the one-minute “He Saves Us” alternative, quickly and masterfully assembled by a pastor and video editor in the UK, reminding us that meaningful multimedia evangelism is possible even under time constraints.)

Finally: the ad creators wanted people to know that Jesus “gets us.” Indeed, he does; he understands that we are unworthy sinners, desperately in need of deliverance from the wrath of God (Ephesians 2:1-3). The real question is, do we get him?

Do we get that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), and that we are commissioned to proclaim his gospel of repentance unto salvation, offensive to the world’s itching ears, unashamedly to a hell-bound generation?

Do we get that Christ has sent us to disciple the nations, proclaiming not only salvation but also teaching them to obey all he has commanded (Matthew 28:19-20)?

Do we get that Christ alone is mighty to save our unbelieving opponents and that we cannot save sinners by our warm feelings of goodwill towards them?

May we be emboldened to bring all of life into the light of Christ—may we truly get him.