Scripture References—Luke 8:1-3; 23:55; 24:10
Name Meaning—The Hebrew name of this woman who was numbered among Christ’s disciples is the same with Joannes, Johanan, or John, and means, “Jehovah hath shown favor” or, “The Lord is grace” or, “The Lord give graciously.” It was because the Saviour showed favor unto Joanna that she rose up and followed Him.
Family Connections—All we know of Joanna’s history is that she was the wife of Chuza, the house-steward of Herod the Tetrarch—whom some writers identify as the Nobleman of John 4:46-54. Joanna was also the name of a male, the son of Rhesa (Luke 3:27), an ancestor of Christ who lived about 500 b.c.
As we read between the lines in the short account Luke gives us in his sacred narrative of the female Joanna, we see her a devoted disciple of the One to whom she owed so much. There is as much difference between her and the monstrous Jezebel we have just considered as there is between light and darkness. We breathe a purer air while in Joanna’s company whose life and labors are set forth in a fivefold way &--;
Joanna, along with Mary Magdalene and Susanna were among the “certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities” (8:2). Whether Joanna had been demon-possessed or suffered from some mental or physical disability we are not told. It is evident that this female of the upper class, restored to normal health by Christ, gave her life to Him. She is here seen as one of the traveling company who went before Christ and the Twelve to arrange for their hospitable reception. Out of her own resources many expenses were met, and in this way she ministered unto Him of her substance. Having freely received His healing touch, she freely gave of herself and of her means for His welfare.
Chuza, the husband of Joanna, was the “steward” of Herod, which is the same word given as “tutor” (Matthew 20:8) or “guardian” (Galatians 4:2). Chuza must have been a man of intelligence and ability in order to hold the position he did as manager of Herod’s income expenditure. Both Chuza and Joanna were likely among the servants to whom Herod imparted his belief, when he heard of the fame of Jesus, that it was John the Baptist, whom he had murdered, now risen from the dead. As Joanna was known as one of the Lord’s disciples, naturally she would speak of Him among Herod’s servants (Matthew 14:2), and Herod would often speak concerning the Master, for his foster brother, Manaen, was a teacher in the church (Acts 13:1). The office of Chuza gave Joanna an excellent opportunity of witnessing in the palace, and we can imagine how she took full advantage of it. As a child of the heavenly King she felt that she must speak her joy abroad. Often through divine grace, Christians find themselves in most unlikely places, wherein they can witness a good confession for Christ. Paul, a prisoner in Rome, persecuted by Nero, the worst ruler who ever lived, was able to write of the saints in Caesar’s household. Tradition has it that Chuza lost his position in Herod’s palace because of his wife’s conversion to Christianity and her courageous testimony among Herod’s servants. If this really happened we know that both of them were sheltered by the Lord.
Healed and saved, Joanna gave thanks. Christ had ministered to her physical restoration and salvation and in turn she ministered to Him. By “substance” we are to understand material possessions, such as money and property, and Joanna honored the Lord with these. Knowing that He and the disciples accompanying Him had very little to support them, Joanna, out of her plenty, gave liberally to their needs and thus exemplified the grace of giving. It is said that Cato, the philosopher, at the close of his honored life, told his friends that the greatest comfort of his old age was that “that which gave him the highest satisfaction, was the pleasing remembrance of the many benefits and friendly offices he had done to others.” We can imagine what joy filled the liberal heart of Joanna as she recalled how she had ministered unto the Lord who had done so much for her, and helped to meet His material needs.
Among the women at the cross, the heart of Joanna must have been rent with anguish as she saw her beloved Lord dying in agony and shame. Was she not among the number of the consecrated women who had followed Him from Galilee, and who, after His brutal death, prepared spices and ointments for His body (Luke 23:55, 56)? The One who had cured her body and her soul had become precious to Joanna, and, having ministered to Him while He was alive, she continues her ministry of love as His body is still and cold in death. Too many save their flowers for the grave. Joanna gave hers to Jesus when He was alive and could appreciate them, as well as produce them at the tomb in honor of Him. Her “last respects” were the outward token of the inner reverence in which she had ever held the Saviour.
Joanna was among the sorrow-stricken women who early on that first memorable Lord’s Day gathered at the sepulcher to linger in the presence of the dead. But to their amazement the tomb was empty, for the living Lord was no longer among the dead. Perplexed over the vacant grave, they beheld the angelic guardians and heard them say, “He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee.” How could they forget His words! Recalling all He had said of His sufferings, death and Resurrection, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, became the first human heralds of the Resurrection. With all haste they went to the apostles and told them the good news, but for awhile their words seemed as idle tales until Peter saw for himself the graveclothes but no dead Master (Luke 24:1-12). He then believed the women’s declaration of the Lord who was alive forevermore. Joanna, then, was among the last at the cross, and among the first to witness the empty tomb and likewise among the first to proclaim that the Lord whom she had so dearly loved was risen indeed. How much the cause of Christ owes to its consecrated Joannas!