‘He Gets Us’ ads for Jesus to get Super Bowl spotlight

One aspect presenting a Jesus who felt anxiety is part of the He Gets Us ad campaign, which includes a spot during Sunday’s Super Bowl.

The words in a commercial on the screen during a recent NFL game read “He Gets Us.”

But Pastor Dennis Aud needed a few more views of the surprising commercial — one featuring a man arrested, charged, found guilty and finally pardoned before an apparently planned execution — before Aud himself truly got it.

“It finally dawned on me, ‘Oh my goodness — this is just making contemporary the whole story of Jesus’” being wrongly accused, Aud said of the spot and others like it airing nationally. “If Jesus had come to Earth at a different time, his execution would have been in a different means entirely. The cross was just the chosen means of execution at the time.”

The organizers behind the He Gets Us stark commercials for the mercy, grace, kindness, tenderness and forgiveness of the biblical Jesus of Nazareth openly say there is an agenda for the ads — one set to run during Sunday’s Super Bowl telecast between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles. The big championship game also is the Super Bowl of commercials, if you will.

“How did the story of a man who taught and practiced unconditional love become associated with hatred and oppression for so many people?” asks the website for hegetsus.com.

” … And how might we all rediscover the promise of the love his story represents? Those are the questions at the heart of He Gets Us.”

The ads, including ones reminding people that Jesus was a refugee and that Jesus grew weary of political rancor in his day, have hit social media, Times Square, and seemingly everywhere in between.

He Gets Us even has sponsored the latest issue of the Christian magazine Relevant.

The campaign website says that He Gets Us is an initiative of Servant Foundation, a designated 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with a 100 out of a possible 100 Charity Navigator rating.

National Public Radio’s All Things Considered program recently interviewed Religion News Service reporter Bob Smietana on the ad campaign. And the reporter hit one good reason for the campaign like a pass zipped to a receiver right on the numbers.

“There is a problem for organized religion in America,” Smietana said to NPR. “It’s declining, congregations are declining. And these ads, too, are a way to chide their fellow Christians to say this is what Jesus is like and maybe we know it, and maybe we’re not acting like Jesus.”

The Rev. Adam Knapp is a Hope native, former Republic sportswriter in the early 2000s and current pastor of First United Methodist Church-San Marcos in San Marcos, Texas. The reporter who formerly covered the Indianapolis Colts remains a big NFL fan and has taken note of the recent Jesus commercials. He remembers his initial reaction.

“I found myself intrigued and excited that someone was connecting our very modern experiences with those of Jesus as a way to connect people to faith in these disconnected times,” Knapp said. “Seeing connections to Christ in pop culture, in everyday life, in our modern world is at the heart of my approach to ministry.”

For example, in the past, he has taught faith-related classes via “Star Wars” movies and themes.

“I think that’s the real gift of these advertisements and of shows like ‘The Chosen,’” Knapp said. “They focus us on the relatability of Jesus, his closeness to our shared experiences as humans.

“That’s the gift of what we call the incarnation — God becoming human — where there is a full affirmation of and identification with the human experience. God says ‘I get you because I have become one of you. I have become one of you so you may become one with me.’”

Ron Bridgewater, pastor at East Columbus Chrstian Church, mentioned that the new spots can either touch viewers or still alienate them.

“I think it could go either way,” Bridgewater said. “I certainly think that the person disenfranchised or maybe turned off by the Christian church may say, ‘Well, I’m okay with and like Jesus. But I don’t necessarily like what the church has done.’

“Then, hopefully maybe they can use the opportunity to at least dive into Scripture to get to know Jesus a little better, and eventually see that the church is part of his plan.”

Bridgewater, also a gospel singer, has seen this happen via Christian concerts and Christian-themed movies.

“I cannot necessarily say I’ve seen that reaction happen from an ad,” the pastor said. “But remember that a large majority of people are going to be watching the Super Bowl just for the ads, and they will be glued to the ads.”

Bridgewater has read about the Christian people behind He Gets Us. Christianity Today and other outlets have reported that the ads are funded in part by the faith-based family who owns Hobby Lobby.

“I understand that they’re pretty solid Christian people,” Bridgewater said. “So, if they’re approving of it, then I’m sure it portrays Jesus in a much more accurate and Biblical way than many people currently know Jesus.”

Watch the commercials

See the He Gets Us commercials at hegetsus.com/en/featured-videos