May 2, 2023
“It was Mary of Magdala, Joanna, Mary, the mother of James, and their companions…..” Luke 24:10
The second woman named in this resurrection story is another disciple of Jesus about whom little is said and little is known. However, just as with Mary Magdalene, sometimes, in the shortest biography of a saint, the deepest of paths can be found.
Joanna is mentioned earlier in Luke’s Gospel as one of the company of women who traveled with Jesus and the disciples after being cured of her ailment. “Jesus was accompanied by the twelve and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and illnesses – Mary, known as the ‘woman of Magdala’ (who had been possessed by seven evil spirits), Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s agent, Susanna, and many others who used to look after his comfort from their resources” (8:2-3). The terms used to describe the women’s problems are “evil spirit,” “illnesses,” and in Mary’s instance, “possession.” It is important to note that in the first century, possession and evil spirits were terms used to cover and describe a variety of physical and mental ailments. They are not the same as our current interpretation and understanding of these descriptions. While we don’t know what they suffered from, we do know that Mary and Joanna were made whole again, cured of their ailments, and restored to life. From the freedom that came from their engagement with Jesus, they became companions and followers who provided their means and resources (wealth) to support the community and work of Jesus. I find JB Phillip’s description of the women particularly tender: “(these were the women) who used to look after his comfort.”
Joanna was a woman of status and means. She was married to Chuza, who was the steward for Herod Antipas, son of King Herod the Great. Herod Antipas was the one who executed John the Baptist at the request of Salome. He is also the one whom Pilate sent Jesus to after his arrest since Jesus was under his jurisdiction as the Tetrarch of Galilee (and Herod sent him back to Pilate) (Luke 23:7). Joanna’s husband’s position as one of the managers-steward in the king’s son’s household would have afforded her status, wealth and inside knowledge of the royal family and its personal and public dealings. Whatever her ailment was, Joanna would have had access to many physicians and healers because of her status. It is Jesus, however, who cures her, and in response to this, she becomes an active supporter of his ministry (Joanna: A Leader Who Refused to Be Defined by Her Past by Lisa Leonce).
Considering the execution of Jesus’s cousin John and her place in the court as the wife of a valued agent, Joanna’s choice to advocate and support Jesus is extraordinary. Meeting Jesus changed her life radically. She courageously chooses to align herself with him despite the risk and his growing popularity, which was becoming seen as a threat to religious authorities and Roman rule. There is bravery in this woman.
How has your encounter with Jesus radically changed your life and led to brave allegiance?
How do you live in such a way that you show your gratitude to Jesus by “looking after his comfort”?
Prayer: Gracious God, thank you for the brave women and especially for Joanna. Give me a strong faith to follow Jesus and reveal his risen life despite the risk and the cost. Amen. Alleluia.
Photo: school of tsar’s izographs, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons