The women who followed Jesus have always had a special place in my heart. When I think about women’s role in the body of Christ, they are the first ones who come to mind.
The fact that these women are specifically mentioned in addition to the disciples marks them as important contributors to Jesus’ ministry on earth. Most of these women had been healed of a disease or a demon by Jesus, and committed their resources and lives to following Him as a result. They went ahead of the disciples and Jesus whenever they stopped somewhere and arranged for their lodging and hospitable reception.One of those women was Joanna, the wife of one of Herod’s officials. Joanna traveled with Jesus, provided her resources to his ministry, and had a unique sphere in which to share of the things she had seen and heard in Herod’s own palace. She was even present at the resurrection, one of the first to hear the good news of grace that Jesus had overcome the grave, and one of the first with the privilege of sharing it with the world around her.
“When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.” Luke 24:9-11
Joanna has long been my favorite woman of the Bible. Her story is slipped into the Gospel of Luke in only a couple of sentences, yet it has always struck my heart in new ways every time I study it. She is an example to me of two things: Jesus’ ability to transform our lives completely to be filled with joy and a desire to follow Him, and God’s ability to use us as we are and where we are at. I’m in my final semester of classes before student teaching, and right now it feels as if I’ve got one foot in the professional world and the other in student life. I’ve quickly begun to feel so overwhelmed by balancing the two, that I lose perspective on both who and whose I am. When Jesus came into Joanna’s life, he didn’t simply heal her, he radically transformed her into the person she was designed by her Creator to be. She couldn’t help but jump in with both feet and follow after Him. When I take just a few moments to sit still with the truth of Who has saved me, the demands of my circumstances no longer seem to drown me.Not only did Jesus radically change Joanna’s life, but He had a purpose for her right where she was. This world tends to identify our role in it based on the things that we do and the names people call us. I would guess that before she met Jesus, Joanna’s most important role, the name she was called by most often, was wife of Chuza. If I were in her shoes, I would have quickly become frustrated by my identity being tied to the work of another person – even if that was customary for the time! However, God orchestrated her circumstances intentionally and with such foresight. Not only did she have the resources to support Jesus’ ministry on earth, but even after the resurrection, she had an incredibly valuable sphere of influence in which to go back and spread the Good News. Nothing He does is on accident – and He has placed us in just the right circumstances to be ever making us into the women He designed us to be.In many ways, I love Joanna because she is not the star of any story: she is mentioned only in passing, a follower serving behind-the-scenes in Jesus’ ministry. In a world where everyone is striving to tell the story, Joanna makes me feel like I can melt into the background and serve God just as faithfully there as I could on the front lines. She reassures me that Jesus not only heals the broken and hurting and gives us a place in the kingdom, but He chooses the ordinary to use in the most extraordinary ways. If you’re feeling a little tired, overwhelmed, or ordinary today – remember that God promises to use where and who you are for your good and His glory, just as He did for Joanna.