I don’t know about you, but I get really excited when I delve into some of these Bible women and discover how truly amazing their stories are. Today is one of those stories. We look at Joanna and Susanna, two of the women who provided financially for Jesus and His disciples.
I’ve heard of Joanna and Susanna, but honestly had no clue who they were until I was innocently reading through my Chronological Bible and there they were in Luke 8:1-3.
“Now it came to pass, afterward, that He went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with Him, and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities—Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who provided for Him from their substance.” (NKJV)
Did you catch that? Jesus was traveling from city to city, village to village, preaching the gospel, and traveling with Him was not only His twelve disciples, but also, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, and many other women. We’ll cover Mary Magdalene next week, but for now, let’s look at Joanna, Susanna, and the other women.
So what does this tell us about these women? First, they’d been healed from some kind of illness, be in mental illness or other infirmities. Second, they were so grateful for His healing that they followed Jesus around. And most surprisingly, they bankrolled the expenses that Jesus and His disciples encountered.
As if that one mention alone isn’t enough, there’s more.
In Luke’s account of the crucifixion, he records that Jesus’ acquaintances, and the women who followed Him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things. Then, when Joseph took Jesus’ body, wrapped it in linen, and lead it in a tomb, “the women who had come with Him from Galilee followed after, and they observed the tomb and how His body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils. And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment.”
Finally, the truly amazing conclusion to their story.
On the first day of the week, the women took the spices they’d prepared, but when they arrived at the tomb, they found the stone rolled away, and the body was gone. While they were trying to understand what was going on, two angels appeared to them, reminding them how Jesus had prophesied that he’d be crucified and rise again on the third day.
And in Luke 24:8, he tells us, “And they remembered His words.”
They went on to tell the disciples, but the disciples didn’t believe them because their story sounded to outlandish.
The women remembered what Jesus had told them. His disciples didn’t.
The Rest of the Story
This glimpse into Jesus’ relationship with these and other women is so revolutionary. The Roman society at the time viewed women as lower class citizens. They deemed women as inferior beings, unworthy of being taught. Men didn’t talk to women in public. In a court of law a woman’s testimony was considered unreliable without a man to confirm it.
Joanna and Susanna didn’t allow their society’s views to keep them from following Jesus, absorbing all that He was teaching, and serving Him however they could. They’d had the courage to go to Him for healing, and when He did so, they spent the rest of their lives showing their gratitude.
Though they were mere women, Jesus treated them with dignity and respect. He saw into their hearts and honored their devotion to Him by allowing them to be the first to witness the resurrection.
So who exactly were these women?
The Bible doesn’t give us any background for Susanna, but as the wife of Herod’s steward, Joanna would have been a privileged woman. Her husband was a high official in the king’s court, so she would have held a prominent place within the palace. Since Herod was not a fan of Jesus and had John the Baptist beheaded, imagine what he must have thought of his steward’s wife traveling around with Jesus and His followers.
I usually try to limit my teaching to what is actually in the scriptures, but I found it interesting to learn that tradition has it that Chuza lost his job as Herod’s steward because of Joanna’s conversion to Christianity and her witness among the other servants in the palace.
It’s also worth noting that while Jesus’ disciples were primarily fishermen and common men, the women who were part of His inner circle were upperclass women who provided their financial support.
In Luke’s account of the crucifixion he records that the people who came to witness the event, beat their breasts in deep sorrow then went home. But His acquaintances and the women who followed Him from Galilee stood at a distance observing it all.
We’re not sure when the men went on their way, but the women remained until Joseph took His body off the cross to be buried in a tomb, and the women followed him to see what he did with the body. Then they went home and prepared the spices for His body and rested on the Sabbath according to the commandments.
Everything happened so fast, and they really didn’t know what was going on, but they continued to do the next thing, preparing the spices as was the custom, observing the Sabbath, though inwardly they were probably wondering why even bother, and waking early in the morning to go prepare His body.
Imagine their confusion when they found the stone rolled away and His body missing. Imagine their fear when the angels appeared in their dazzling robes then their excitement when they heard what had happened.
How they must have babbled in a frenzy of words as they tried to explain it all to the disciples, and how frustrated they must have felt when the disciples dismissed their testimony. Only Peter took them seriously enough that he had to go see for himself.
Each week we try to look at ourselves through the eyes of the women we meet in the Bible. How are we like them? How are we different? What can we learn from them? In this case, we have so much we can learn.
First, we need to step out in faith, seeking Him out and asking for His healing and new life. Have you done that already? If not, stop what you’re doing, and immediately, pray for Jesus to reveal Himself to you, to cleanse you from your sins, and to guide you in your new life as a believer.
If you’ve already made that decision, are you actively following Him, hanging onto His words, developing an actual relationship with Him? When things get tough and you realize that following Him can lead to persecution or even death, are you fleeing the scene, or are you standing at the cross waiting to see what happens next? When nothing makes sense and you think you’ve lost it all, are you still doing the next thing, trusting that in time, He will reveal Himself to you in a dazzling way?
Lord God, thank You for treating all people with the same love and care regardless of who we are. Thank you for looking past our appearance, our nationality, our reputation, and our gender and seeing through to our hearts. Thank You for saving us from our sins. Thank You for allowing us to follow You wherever that leads. Thank You for Your word that teaches us and guides us in all that we do. Forgive us those times we lose our way. Draw us back onto the right path. Give us the courage to stand strong when those around us are fleeing in fear. Open our eyes to the truth that is right before us. We love You. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
Tune in next week when we delve into the life of Mary Magdalene.
Their story: Luke 8:1-3; 23:48-56; 24:1-12
Bible Study Review
- How did the women meet Jesus?
- How did they show their gratitude to Jesus?
- What type of women were they?
Thoughts to Ponder
- Why was it dangerous for Joanna especially to be following Jesus?
- How did Jesus treat the women who followed Him?
- How did the women react to the angels’ reminder of what Jesus had said?
- Has Jesus changed your life?
- How are you showing your gratitude to Him?
- Are you sharing the Good News to those around you?
Join with other women in the
All God’s Women Bible Study Facebook group