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Healed by Jesus, Joanna becomes a follower and supporter of Jesus’s ministry. Part of the circle of women who stay through it all—the arrest, interrogations, floggings, walk to Golgotha, crucifixion, death, and entombment—Joanna also came bearing myrrh to attend the dead body of Jesus, only to find he was not there but had been raised. Being the wife of one of Herod of Antipas’s stewards must have led to some interesting conversations, especially when Pilate handed Jesus over to her husband’s boss before his death. Joanna’s devotion to Jesus and her context as a member of the Tetrarch’s household staff must have been a stressful and, at times, uncomfortable divisive position. Yet her commitment, presence, and support of Jesus, and the early Way never wavered.

In his book, Gospel Women, biblical scholar Richard Bauckham provides evidence that the Joanna mentioned in Luke’s Gospel is the same person that Paul names as the woman Junia in Romans 16:7.* It was a common practice for Jews to adopt a “Roman” or Latin name. Joanna is a Hellenized, Grecian adaptation of a Hebrew name, and Junia is the Latin form.  Paul mentions that Junia (Joanna) was a member of the Christian community prior to his conversion, placing her in the timeline as a member from the beginning (Paul’s conversion was three years after Jesus’s death). Paul also describes her as one of the most prominent among the apostles. She is also identified as a “fellow prisoner, outstanding among the messengers and Christians before I was” (Romans 16:7). If Bauckham’s argument holds, Joanna/Junia was convicted and imprisoned for her associations and actions within the early Jesus movement. Undoubtedly, she was courageous, strong, and faithful.

Let us spend time with this woman at the empty tomb, a woman who has been healed and saved, who has risked her home and status in support of Jesus, and who, in the years to follow, continued her brave witness and faithfulness and was incarcerated with others of the movement. Perhaps in our reflection on Joanna’s life and witness, our own journey can be fueled and inspired. 

Has your faith and your relationship with Jesus caused friction in your family? How did you navigate this? What impact did it have on your believing?

Believing in Jesus and being a Christian is not a very popular religious position in our present zeitgeist. Joanna, in her time, knew the “cost of discipleship,” risking a bold faith and being incarcerated for her association with Jesus and the Way.

What “price” are you willing to pay for your love, faith, and discipleship in the Risen One?

How can you live a more courageous witness in a loving, generous, faithful way?

As you pray, lift up women of faith who are currently imprisoned.

Prayer: Holy One, give me strength in my believing and courage in my faithful witness. May your love shine through my thoughts, words, and actions as I live the Risen Life. In Jesus’s name, I pray. Amen. Alleluia.

* Some translations incorrectly identify Junia as Junias, a male. Bauckham and other scholars hold that Paul is naming Joanna here and that the male translation is an error.

Photo: Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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