Posted in theology

Joanna: Who was she?

By Elizabeth Prata

Luke has this intriguing little nugget tucked in to the beginning of chapter 8.

Women Accompanying Jesus

1Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, 2and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.

We only find her mentioned by name one other time in any of the Gospels or even the rest of the New Testament. It’s in Luke 24:10, where the women were the first to find the empty tomb of the resurrection and went back to tell the apostles: Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles,

We do find other times the Gospel writers mention the women who followed Jesus, And many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to minister to Him. (Matthew 27:55), and in Luke 23:55, The women who had come with him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid.

We know Joanna was one of the women.

Who was Joanna? She is a named woman of the New Testament, that is something to ponder. Her name is the same as Johannes or John. It means ‘to whom Jehovah has graciously given’.

She has a short genealogy- she was the wife of Chuza. Chuza is stated to be the steward of Herod Antipas, Tetrarch of Galilee (Luke 8:3), quite a high position. By this we know that Joanna was in an upper echelon of society. The word ‘steward’ means “to turn toward; thence to turn over to, transfer, and so commit or entrust to. The word thus literally means, “one to whom the management of affairs is turned over”, according to Word studies in the New Testament.

However, despite her high position in society, we also know from Luke 8:2-3 Joanna was one of the women whom Jesus had healed either a bodily infirmity or an evil spirit.

She ministered to Him out of her own private means. Matthew Henry wonders if Joanna was a widow. I had wondered myself how it was that a married woman (“wife of Chuza”) could accompany Jesus all over Galilee, and also give of “her” means. She might be a widow left in good circumstances, Matthew Henry wondered, free to make her own decisions. If she was not a widow, Matthew Henry posited that the Gospel might have been given and her husband was now a believer, and was willing for Joanna to both follow and give materially. If it’s the latter, then we guess that she had servants and slaves to take care of the household during the time she was away ministering to Jesus. We do know she was in the traveling company following Jesus in Galilee and also traveled the 80 miles to Jerusalem for the Passover/Crucifixion.

Joanna gave out of her substance, a word that means real, tangible money and/or property. Perhaps she went ahead and arranged for places to stay. Perhaps she bought food for the company. In any case, she provided, and Jesus humbly accepted the means provided to Him.

Luke’s Gospel is female-oriented, speaking several times of the women who followed Jesus and His work among them. Women alone following a Prophet or Teacher was a scandalous thing in those days, perhaps this is why Luke’s Gospel mentions the women so often. In any case, Joanna had been healed and we know from the reactions of others who had been healed, gratitude and loyalty was the outflow of His healing gift. It seems Joanna was no different, following, ministering, and giving.

Here also in two scenes poor women, wealthy women, and women oppressed by Satan are all brought to equal honor by Jesus.

Holman concise Bible commentary.

Joanna was a witness to the resurrection. Her ministry to Jesus followed him to his death and continued afterward, as she was at the tomb on the precious morning. Though she is not mentioned among the named women who were there, Joanna was almost surely one of the women at the cross.

Luke 23: 48-49, And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts. 49 And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things.

It must have been horrible for Joanna, having followed her beloved Messiah in gratitude and love, ministering all the while, and now seeing Him dying on the cross.

Her ministry to Him continued after death. She and the other women followed Joseph of Arimathea when Joseph took the body. Luke 23:55

The women who had come with him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid. 56 Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments.

Once again we see Joanna providing for Jesus out of her means, acquiring spices and ointments to anoint His body for what she no doubt believed was her final ministration.

Then, obedient to the end, the women went home and rested on the Sabbath, as was commanded. However on the first day of the week, the women arose and went to the tomb, Joanna among them. “They” refers back to Luke 23 of the women who followed Jesus in Galilee:

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. 5 And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” 8 And they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, 11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.

Joanna lived in Galilee, because that’s where Herod the Tetrarch was stationed and where her husband Chuza worked. However, she followed Jesus to Jerusalem spent those awful three days in Jerusalem when Jesus was crucified. (Mark 15:41). She was on hand at the tomb for the angel’s declaration that He is not here, He had risen! Where she lodged where her husband was, or how she managed is not known. What is evident is that Joanna was dedicated. She ministered through to the bitter end, but the ‘bitter end’ was not the end! It turned to joy upon the news He had resurrected!

That is pretty much all we know or can closely surmise about Joanna. She is a named woman of the Bible, and a good example to follow as we see her steady discipleship and giving and ministering. We can be fairly assured that any remaining questions we might have of this woman Joanna, wife of Chuza, giver and follower of Jesus, will be answered in heaven when we meet this wonderful lady.


Fra Angelico
 Resurrection of Christ and Women at the Tomb (1440-1442)

Author:

Christian writer and Georgia teacher's aide who loves Jesus, a quiet life, art, beauty, and children.

2 thoughts on “Joanna: Who was she?

  1. Thank you for the essay on Joanna. I never really gave her much thought, even though she was named among Jesus’ followers. I will think differently now when I come across her name in my reading!

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