Joanna the Apostle
Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources.
-Luke 8:1-3, (NRSV)
Download the iPhone Daily Bible Study App to read the week-long series about Joanna. We dive into her unique position as a woman of influence in two very different worlds. She was a devout worshiper, a faithful and generous giver, and a woman deeply greatful for her own transformation.
Joanna: Apostle and Disciple of Jesus
Joanna’s name appears in the New Testament two times although most people haven’t heard of her, and if they remember her name, they don’t know much about her story. But we actually know quite a bit considering how buried she has become. She was one of the main disciples of Jesus, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s financial steward and a woman of means and Jewish heritage. She accompanied Jesus during his ministry for at least two years and financially backed much if not most of the disciples cost of living. She was also miraculously cured by Jesus of something dire, although what she suffered from we don’t know. There is a lot to unpack about this buried woman of faith this week. Joanna is one of the most interesting women of the New Testament that many of us haven’t heard of. She was a woman of means, political influence, devotion and perseverance for Jesus, and someone who had access to everything and everywhere yet didn’t quite fit in anywhere.
Many of us grow up in the church not realizing how incredibly influential Jesus’ female disciples were. Many of them gave financially out of their means to support Jesus and the others who had little to no income. Women that were poor gave what they had in skills and physical labor. In Luke 8:1-3 above, we are made aware of a few women who were on the inside circle with Jesus. These female witnesses to Jesus’ ministry were intentionally mentioned by Luke and are recognized for their impact and importance as leaders and providers to the disciples.
Why did Luke Mention Joanna… and Chuza?
It is notable that Joannna is mentioned alongside her husband, Chuza, in Luke 8:1-3. This paring highlights that she was well connected to two different worlds where she would have had influence. Luke could have chosen to highlight this connection for a few different reasons.
First, Joanna becomes the link between Herod and Jesus, which functions to create a sense of suspense for the reader of Luke’s narrative.
Second, as a social elite, a pious Jew, and a woman miraculously healed by Jesus, Joanna’s testimony could reach a diverse audience. Joanna’s status meant those who associated with high society could and should take the movement of the early church seriously. In other words, Luke uses her credentials to underscore the legitimacy of the movement.
Third, On the contrary, it is also possible that Luke highlights her association with the Herodian court to cast her as an outcast, (as was a common theme among them). There is evidence to support that members of the court were despised similar to the way tax collectors were at the time. This perspective gives us a different understanding of the obstacles Joanna would have had to overcome as one of Jesus’ most active supporters and disciples.