…Jesus travelled 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 8:1-3 (NIVUK)
Joanna’s situation is interesting, isn’t it?
Joanna is named in Luke as one of the women supporting Jesus from their own resources. Jesus had a number of disciples who lived in Judea at this time, and also a group of around twelve when travelling: some poor, some with wealth. In Luke 8, women supporters are named among ‘many’ before the text moves into the parable of the sower. Joanna is one of them.
Joanna is named again in Luke 24 as one of the women who took spices to Jesus’ tomb, only to find the stone rolled away and the tomb empty. Verse 10 tells us: ‘It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles.’
So we know that Joanna supported Jesus’ budding ministry, witnessed his teachings and miracles, and received healing. She experienced emotional upheaval with his death, perhaps saw it. She witnessed his resurrection circumstances before telling the ‘others’ (the apostles). How amazing, emotional, and difficult must this have been?
If we factor in that Chuza was ‘the manager of Herod’s household’ – those difficulties are vastly increased. Herod Antipater (or Antipas) ruled in Judea; he was the son of Herod the Great – infamous in Matthew’s gospel account for killing Bethlehem’s male babies – and a puppet of Rome. Romans had a rudimentary understanding of Christianity, viewing it as part of Judaism. This brought some protection because Judaism was a recognised religion, Christianity was not.
I’m left wondering about the Christian Joanna’s life and her relationship with Chuza. It couldn’t have been straightforward, could it? Did Joanna hide her support of Jesus from Chuza? Or did Chuza protect Joanna, torn between loyalties to his wife and job? Or was Chuza more culpable, and Joanna protected by the Holy Spirit? We don’t know.
We also don’t know if Joanna and Chuza’s difficulties worsened when Herod Agrippa, Antipas’ nephew, maneuvered his way into Kingship for three tumultuous years. Agrippa knew the differences between Christianity and Judaism. To gain favour with Jewish leaders he persecuted the group they hated – Christianity – killing James in AD44, then pursuing Peter and causing him to move away (Acts 12). Such a difficult backdrop for Joanna. How did she cope?
One thing is evident though: the Holy Spirit moves in whomever and wherever he chooses. He helps us no matter what our difficulties are. One day Joanna can tell us the rest of her story, and how the Holy Spirit helped her to cope with the many challenges she faced in her Christian life.
Heavenly Father, may the Holy Spirit bring comfort and strength to those in trying circumstances, who continue in your work. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Study by Andrew Montgomery
About the writer:
Andrew Montgomery is a Deacon in the Edinburgh congregation of Grace Communion International.
Gilmerton New Church
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