by Justin Irabor
As soon as the question dropped, the disciples flinched, scurrying into the far corners of the path, afraid to be the first to prod it with the very long stick of wariness. They were all too familiar with the words of the Rabbi, the arcane pronouncements that poured from his lips were never to be taken at face value.
James sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. ‘Here we go again,’ he muttered despondently.
They were walking to another village around Caesarea Philippi. Jesus, as usual, was taking the lead on the path, and some of the disciples were falling over themselves to be the ones in front with him. It was difficult being noticed in this group of 12 followers. Some people just naturally stayed at the back, like Thomas, who wasn’t one for fiery-red loyalty. His was slow, deliberate and utterly reliant on tangible data. The team needed someone like him in their startup. Thomas was the metrics guy — as soon as everyone started spewing enthusiastic can-do’s, Thomas would download the Google Analytics report and say, uhm, guys, according to this .CSV sheet,we’re not necessarily showing growth in Samaria and environs. He was just that sort of guy.
So this brave team, the prototypers of what would become Christianity, were walking with Jesus, falling over themselves to answer Jesus’ tough start up questions (‘if we grew the gospel at 25% last month while cutting down on offline advertising, how much have we lost by way of market-share, or top-of-mind awareness, if you will?’) and the happy disciples would say ‘Jesus I! Jesus I! Let me be the one to answer and impress you with my brilliance!’
Then out of nowhere the question flapped about and smeared these men with shyness.
Jesus, without appearing to change topic, asked: ‘who do men say that I am?’
The disciples in front began the arduous yet important task of moving to the back while pretending not to do so.
There was silence for a long time. A cricket chirped nervously from Matthew’s back pocket.
Then somebody created a Google Form and shared it on Twitter. A few minutes later, he chirped “according to this data, 76% of people say you’re John the Baptist, Lord.”
But another guy in the back — who had asked the hurried question on the Slack group — cried “nuh-uh! people say he is Elijah! Do you even statistics, man?”
Someone quietly doctored the data and arrived at an all-encompassing answer: “they say you are one of the prophets!”
“Yes but which one?”
“Whichever one you have in mind.”
“Nice one. Very nice.”
The men wiped sweat from their brows. Whew. This question was up there with the marketing department being asked “what is the product’s target audience?”, while everyone is avoiding each other’s gaze and coughing politely and whistling at the sky.
“Okay,” said Jesus, being a nice, patient CEO. “Who do you say that I am?”
And now the crew was close to crying because no one knew. Hay God.
Then Peter, the guy who replies Jesus’ e-mails from time to time, sighed and said, “of course, you are the Christ. It’s in your email signature.”
“Whammo. Take heed, ye disciples, and understand: there is sometimes a great disparity between what people think of your brand and what you think of your brand. People think I am like every other prophet right now, but what is our ultimate goal?”
“I can’t hear you!”
“We want the world to know you are the Way, the Truth and the Life. The Son of God — and the one true Messiah.”
“Correct. And ultimately, these fancy impressions, these beautiful projects, these powerpoint reports would be for nothing if we have not communicated value and our brand promise to our target demographic. We know what we stand for, and we know what we do, but do they?”
Justin Irabor is a digital marketer and an illustrator in Lagos. He also fancies himself a writer, much to his parents’ chagrin. He draws the occasional comic on Obaranda.com. This article was written here.