Her name means: "The Lord Gives Graciously"
Her character: A woman of high rank in Herod's court, she experienced healing at Jesus' hands. She responded by giving herself totally, supporting his ministry, and following him wherever he went. The story of her healing may have been known to Herod himself.
Her joy: To find the tomb empty except for the angels who proclaimed Jesus alive.
Key Scriptures: Luke 8:1-3; 24:10 (and Matthew 14:1-12 and Luke 23:7-12 for background on Herod and his court)
Joanna was a wealthy woman, accustomed to an atmosphere of worldliness. One didn't live in Herod Antipas's courts without learning to navigate the powerful currents of intrigue that swirled continuously around his throne. But nothing had so troubled and sickened her as the death of the prophet John. A holy man murdered for speaking the plain truth, his head was carried to Herodias on a platter, like a tantalizing dish to satisfy her appetite for revenge. How sad she had been as she watched Jesus grieving his cousin's murder.
Joanna's own life had been so altered by Christ that she may have hoped to influence Herod on his behalf. Married to Cuza, the manager of Herod's vast estates, she was well-positioned for the task. How intently Herod would have listened as she recounted the details of her miraculous healing. But after John's death, Joanna must have wondered what would become of Jesus should he ever have the misfortune of falling into Herod's hands. And what, for that matter, would become of his followers?
Though Joanna would have realized the escalating risks that faith required, there is not the slightest evidence she flinched from them. Unlike Nicodemus, she made no effort to hide her admiration for Jesus. Along with other women, she provided for his needs from her own purse. Perhaps her gifts made it just a little easier on this teacher who had no place to lay his head (Matthew 8:20).
All we really know of Joanna, in addition to her status as Cuza's wife, is that Jesus cured her of some spiritual or physical malady, that she was among a group of women who traveled with Jesus and his disciples, that she supported his ministry out of her own means, and that she was present at Jesus' resurrection along with Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of James. Whether her faith cost her dearly or little in either her marriage or at court is a matter for speculation.
Joanna was probably among the women present at the crucifixion. And like the others who went to the tomb to anoint Jesus' body, she must have fallen on her face in awe of the angels who greeted her with astonishing news: "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 'The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.' "
She would have run with the others to tell the disciples of the incredible discovery. Though Peter and the other disciples discounted the story as the ravings of hysterical women, Joanna would hardly have doubted herself. For she was a woman who lived in an atmosphere of power, and she had just witnessed a far greater power than Herod's. She would have recognized it as the same power that had healed her.
It didn't matter that her husband served a man opposed to Christ; Joanna knew where her allegiance belonged. A woman of high rank, she became part of the intimate circle of Christ's followers, casting her lot with fishermen and poor people rather than with the rich and the powerful. God honored her by making her one of the first witnesses of the resurrection.
Joy comes in the morning. Joanna discovered this in a miraculous way on Jesus' resurrection day. She went to his tomb expecting to minister to his dead body and to grieve. Instead, her sorrow turned to tremendous joy. Our joy may not come this morning or tomorrow morning or even the morning after that. We face too many hardships, too many difficult situations, too much sorrow here on earth to think joy will arrive with each morning. But it will come. He has promised. At the end of the day, at the end of this life, there will be a joyful morning for all who trust in him.
This devotional is drawn from Women of the Bible: A One-Year Devotional Study of Women in Scripture by Ann Spangler and Jean Syswerda. Used with permission.
Joanna was a wealthy woman, accustomed to an atmosphere of worldliness.