Joanna is mentioned only in a few verses in the Bible, and yet much can be learned from those lines. In Luke 8:1–3, Joanna is introduced as the wife of Chuza, who was the manager of Herod Antipas's household in Tiberias, the capital of Galilee. Thus, Joanna was a woman with access to wealth and influence. However, she is listed as one of several women whom Jesus healed of evil spirits or infirmities while He ministered in Galilee. So despite her position of wealth and relative power, she still had a need only Jesus could fill, and she chose to come to Him with that need.
Once she received healing, Joanna chose to travel with Jesus, the twelve disciples, and some other women throughout Jesus' ministry. During this time, she heard His teaching and supported the ministry financially. We know Joanna remained a loyal follower of Jesus because she was present at His death and among the first to see the empty tomb and bear witness to His resurrection (Luke 23:27, 49; 23:55–24:12).
The inclusion of women in Jesus' ministry in this way was a break from the tradition of other Jewish rabbis at the time. Women were typically not permitted to learn as disciples, to travel away from their homes, or to direct finances as they so chose. However, Jesus had several women who traveled with Him "through cities and villages" (Luke 8:1) and "had come with him [to Jerusalem] from Galilee" (Luke 23:55) and "who provided for them out of their [financial] means" (Luke 8:3).
During these travels, the women were included during Jesus' instruction. When the angels appeared to the women at the empty tomb, they commanded them to, "Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise" (Luke 24:6–7). "And they remembered his words" (Luke 24:8). Thus, these women must have been present during Jesus' teaching to His inner circle about His coming death and other topics.
Furthermore, another break from tradition was giving the women the responsibility of bearing witness and sharing the news. At the time, women's testimonies were not accepted in court because women were seen as unreliable witnesses. And yet, the angels told women to "go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you" (Matthew 28:7). So Jesus rejected the cultural norms of His day in order to include all types of people in His ministry. He invited men (such as the Twelve in Matthew 10:2–4) and women (such as Mary, Joanna, Susanna, and others in Luke 8:2–3), rich (like Matthew the tax collector in Matthew 10:3 and Joanna in Luke 8:3) and poor (including fishers James and John in Matthew 10:2), young (children in Matthew 19:14) and old (Anna in Luke 2:37), single (like Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:8) and married (like Joanna in Luke 8:3), Jew (like Paul in Ephesians 1:1) and Gentile (like the demon-possessed in the Gerasenes in Mark 5:1), those with power (like Nicodemus in John 3:1) and those without (like Mary Magdalene in Luke 8:2). Anyone who recognizes his/her need for Jesus and chooses to devote one's life to His ministry, just like Joanna, is welcome in God's kingdom.
Some scholars believe that Junia mentioned in Paul's letter to the church in Rome in Romans 16:7 could be the Latin name of the Greek-named Joanna in Luke's gospel. Junia is described as a kinsfolk and fellow prisoner who was well known among the apostles and was in Christ before Paul. So Joanna may have gone on to serve in the early church, spreading the gospel, and suffering imprisonment as she faced persecution along with fellow believers. Due to her faithful involvement in Jesus' ministry in Luke's gospel and her presence in Jerusalem during His resurrection, it is likely Joanna was also present during the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2) and remained an integral member of the early church, even if Junia is the name of a different Christ-following woman.
The presence of Joanna's name and the inclusion of details about her experience in Luke's gospel help readers learn that Jesus' ministry is for everyone. Anyone can bring their needs to Christ and choose to follow Him just like Joanna. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16, emphasis added). No matter our status in society, we are all invited to join in God's kingdom through dedication to Jesus and His ministry (Galatians 3:25–29; Ephesians 2:11–22).
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