SERIES: WOMEN OF THE BIBLE
After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means. (Luke 8:1-4)
These are some of the more obscure verses in the Bible that probably shouldn’t be obscure because they show us a lot about Jesus’ view of women and the important role they had in His life and ministry. He clearly would not have had three years of ministry without them. These things don’t just happen. Basic needs have to be met, and these women saw to it that they were taken care of.
These verses also push up against the more traditional views of women in the church which have them subservient to men in every area. Traditionalists would want to know why Joanna was out there operating on her own in the marketplace. Where was Chuza? This probably explains why we are so unfamiliar with the content of these verses. “How long has this been in my Bible?” I want to say.
Though Joanna is not on anyone’s “A” list of important women of the Bible, we definitely want her on our list. She is mentioned only twice in Luke’s gospel, but the few things we know about her are significant in terms of how Jesus viewed women and the role they played in His ministry.
Here’s what we know about Joanna: 1) She was healed. 2) She was grateful. 3) She was closely tied to the local government and politics of the region through her husband. 4) She was wealthy — a member of the upper class — and supported the needs of Jesus and the twelve out of her own means, not just the means of her husband. 5) Whether her efforts were or were not supported by her husband, that didn’t seem to matter; she was functioning autonomously as an influencer in society. 6) She moved about freely, most likely setting up arrangements for food and lodging for Jesus and the disciples.
Joanna, Susanna and the others mentioned here remind me of an organization Marti help found and link to World Vision called Women of Vision, Orange County, California. These are today’s women of means who seek to use their influence to support the cause of Christ as His disciples all over the world, improving the lot of women and children everywhere, and spreading the gospel as they do. They are a powerful force for good; they have raised millions of dollars to fund cottage industries, and virtually ended female genital mutilation in many areas.
And Joanna shows up one more time, after the resurrection:
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee. ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” Then they remembered his words.
When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened. (Luke 24:1-12)
Here we have Joanna as one of the first to hear of the resurrection. The women rushed to tell the others, but as it is so often today, the men didn’t believe them. “Their words seemed to them like nonsense.” Nothing much has changed. Peter even went and checked their story out to find it to be true, and still was not convinced even by his own eyes! He walked away wondering, obviously still questioning their story of the angelic appearance and what the angels said.
Come on guys, how many times have we had to check out the women’s story, only to find it was true? Why not learn to trust them the first time. Jesus did.