If you watch NFL football as I tend to do on Sunday afternoons, you probably have seen a rather clever ad campaign going on for Jesus called “He Gets Us.” You can learn all about it on their website. The page begins by saying “Jesus gets our lives because He was human too.” Apparently, the assumption that the authors of this campaign are making is that many people don’t get it that Jesus gets us. They are assuming that most people have a stained glass image of Jesus in their minds as one who is so divinely perfect that He is out of touch with us and basically incapable of relating to us ordinary humans.
They’ve been faulted by some evangelical Christians for this assumption—that people tend to see Jesus as only God and that they need to be reminded that He is fully human like us too. Certainly if people don’t believe that Jesus is God, it’s no big deal to prove that He’s human—after all, what else would He be? I don’t know what’s the prevailing opinion on the street, but perhaps it is safe to say that even those who do acknowledge Jesus’ humanity still figure that He not only has virgin birth but also virgin ears, and that He is not only holy but “holier than thou.” In other words, perhaps most people assume that Jesus is easily offended and has a condescending disdain for real-life people like us, especially those who might feel marginalized, rejected, or despised by His followers.
Portrayals of Jesus
Over the years, I have found that the most controversial portrayals of Jesus have not been as the “King of Kings” or the divine character in “The Greatest Story Ever Told” but rather the more human portraits, especially those that overdo His humanity to a fault and make Him faulty, such as “Jesus Christ Superstar” or “Godspell.” Thankfully, more recent movies and videos about Jesus seem to get the God/man combination more accurately, and have helped people see Jesus as more like us without compromising His divine character. I’m thinking especially of “The Passion of the Christ” (2004), “The Nativity Story” (2005) and especially the latest streaming series called “The Chosen” that is really quite well done and captivating.
While the Bible surely reveals Jesus to be God, it also makes an emphatic case for His full humanity. In the Gospels, in addition to recording Jesus doing divine things like performing spectacular miracles, Jesus also gets hungry, He gets angry, He gets tired, He cries, He gets heartbroken, He bleeds, and He dies—all very human attributes. When St. John tells us to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God,” he goes on to point out that the way we know the Spirt of God is that He will confess that “Jesus Christ has come in the flesh” (1 John 4:1–2). In fact, the writer to the Hebrews helps us see how Jesus’ humanity is essential to our salvation: “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, He himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Hebrews 2:14–15).
The Essence of Christmas
God becoming fully human is the essence of what we celebrate at Christmas time. It’s the incarnation of the Son of God. The Athanasian Creed puts it like this: “Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is at the same time both God and man. He is God, begotten from the substance of the Father before all ages; and He is man, born from the substance of His mother in this age: perfect God and perfect man, composed of a rational soul and human flesh; equal to the Father with respect to His divinity, less than the Father with respect to His humanity. Although He is God and man, He is not two, but one Christ: one, however, not by the conversion of the divinity into flesh, but by the assumption of the humanity into God.” That’s the fancy theological way of saying it. The “He Gets Us” campaign puts it far simpler in a way that can be quite comforting and compelling. For example: “Jesus was born to a teenage girl. A girl who was scared and forced to travel far away from her home right before she gave birth. A girl who was at the mercy of a man who could have publicly shamed her or even had her killed, but who instead protected and supported her. A girl who gave birth in a stable because she had nowhere else to go . . . Jesus didn’t just appear out of nowhere. His life was not some fairytale—it was very real. His first few minutes in this world looked like anyone else’s, crying in the arms of his mom. His teen mom” (https://hegetsus.com/en/what-would-jesus-think-of-teen-moms).
I’m certainly not blanket endorsing the “He Gets Us” campaign, but it does seem to be a potentially effective message for our world today, a world that surprisingly still seems to have high regard for Jesus even if it’s not so sure about His church. If it helps, remember that Jesus said, “the one who is not against us is for us” (Mark 9:10). So I would say let’s capitalize on whatever good might come out of the “He Gets Us” campaign. As St. Paul put it, “whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice” (Philippians 1:18). I think I get that.