Jesus Christ’s Master Class

When Jesus Becomes a Marketing Brand

Guest Contributor / 3.22.23

This story is by Jessica Walters:

I was filming a documentary in Jerusalem when I found him on a hillside surrounded by a crowd of onlookers. He wore a white linen dress with a faded red sash. He looked like a replica of the Sunday school painting of Jesus, except with less penetrating eyes.

I watched him for a few days, until I believed he was the real deal. He was back on what I called a comeback tour, but what he called his second coming. We agreed to disagree. What we both agreed on is that he had no ability market himself. He had not lived on earth during the dawn of marketing or the invention of camera. He was awkward whenever someone asked for a selfie. Teens came up to him, threw their arms around his shoulder, and smiled. But he just stood there blank faced with arms pinned to the side of his body, unsure of where to look. That’s where I came in.

One night I waited until after the crowds had dispersed. Then I made my pitch.

“I’m a cameraman, and I have a lot of contacts who can help you get your message out there. You’ll have to come to America, but people already love you there.”

He said he had no trouble getting his message out there first time but was surprised by how difficult it was the second time. He’d been back for a couple months but had only managed to draw a small crowd.

“People meet online these days, no one meets in person. You’ll never have a following unless we get you online.” That was how we ended up on the plane headed to America. He didn’t have much money, so we sat in economy near the washrooms.

I introduced him to a director friend who wanted him to lead one of those online master classes for would-be chefs, writers, and actors.

The director set up one of those generic master class backgrounds. The one that’s supposed to give the teacher an air of authority while being bland enough not to draw attention to itself. I could have left the set at that point, but I wanted to stick around. I liked the guy and I didn’t want to just leave him.

We sat him in a leather chair then did a screen test.

“Ok, just say something while looking into the camera.”

“What do I say?”

“Anything you want.” I said.

“A man had two sons.” Jesus said. The lighting guy turned to me and said,

“I hate riddles.”

“One son asked for his inheritance before his father died.”

“Ok, thanks Jesus, that’ll do for now,” the director said. It was clear the guy had zero on-screen charisma. He lacked that dynamism that so many great actors have. He didn’t know where to look. He was timid and stuck within himself. So, we got him a vocal coach, and an acting teacher and he worked with them for a few weeks before coming back to the studio.

“OK Jesus, ready for take one?” I said. He gave me a thumbs up, clearly; he had learned a lot during training. The camera was on. He looked directly at it and said,

“I will be teaching on leadership attributes, how to choose a good team, and how to manage inter-dimensional relationships.”

“Cut.” The director yelled. “What the heck? No one cares about inter-dimensional relationships. Who wrote this script? Who cares. Let’s just re-write that bit and you can say something about the hardships of starting a family business with an overly demanding father.”

“Sure.” Jesus said. He still seemed camera shy, but he was warming up, slowly. He continued,

“I’ll also offer tips on how to create a global brand. I’m Jesus Christ, and this is my Master Class.”

“Good!” The director yelled.

“Choosing a good team is a very important step in creating your movement.” Jesus said. “I chose twelve guys. Yes, they were uneducated, some were fisherman, one wasn’t all in, if you know what I mean. But those twelve guys took the good news to all the nations, even after I left earth.”

“Cut. Can you sound a little less first century and a little more 21st century? Like this phrase ‘took the good news to all the nations,’ no one actually talks that way anymore. And we don’t want to alienate audiences. What if you say, ‘my co-workers spread my message, taking it global?’” Jesus just sighed. He was obviously not interested acting but he was patient with the process. He continued,

“I spent three years creating brand awareness, and sometimes I gained a huge following. But I also knew that those followers weren’t true followers, so I offered a difficult message and half of them left me. My colleagues objected, saying that it wasn’t a great way to start a movement, but I had full veto power.”

“Cut.” The director walked away, yelling back over his shoulder, “take five Jesus.” To me he said, “This guy is totally unmarketable.”


After he was finished filming his Master Class, Jesus and I went for beers. I said,

“There’s a late-night talk show host that wants to interview you? Do you want me say yes on your behalf? Also, we could get you a publicist so they can arrange more of these gigs for you.”

“Thanks for everything you’ve done,” he said, “but this TV thing just isn’t for me. I’m going back to Israel to preach on a lonely hillside. It may be ineffective, but it’s my jam.”

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