With all the prayer, meditation, inspiration, insight and scholarship focused on Christianity since its inception, how has it happened that so little is known or contemplated to this day concerning a woman who was healed by Christ, who arduously followed his ministry throughout the region and witnessed his miracles, who provided financial support for Christ and his disciples, who witnessed His Passion, arrest and crucifixion, prepared His body for burial, was among the first to learn of His resurrection, and was sent by angels to announce that glorious resurrection to His apostles and other disciples – surely this would be a person chosen by God for a special place in history?
Luke 8:1-3: “Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, preaching and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him,2and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.”
Luke 24: 1-11: “But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices which they had prepared. 2And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3but when they went in they did not find the body. 4While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel; 5and as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7that the Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise.” 8 And they remembered his words, 9and returning from the tomb they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. 10Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told this to the apostles; 11but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.”
Scriptures tell us that this woman existed – following St. Luke’s gospel, we call her St. Joanna. Yet outside St. Luke’s call out, her voice and witness have been all but silent down through the Christian ages. Revered as a saint by Catholics, Orthodox, Lutherans and other Christians, she nevertheless stands virtually unknown to us in modern day. St. Luke mentions her by name twice in his Gospel – evidence that in her time, she was a woman of renown sufficient enough for name recognition – yet in those brief mentions we have no details, no lasting record of the life she led and what must have been by any standard an extraordinarily compelling witness to her commitment to Jesus Christ. St. Joanna stands as a testament to all of us who, as faithful Christians, will remain nameless and unknown in the ages to come, our lives unknown to others among us or following us except to those who, by unlikely happenstance or speculation, might consider who we were and what we accomplished in our lives on this earth. For although St. Joanna was named in Luke 8:3, we know that while she witnessed divine history there stood mere steps away from her (and from her more well-recognized contemporaries) other disciples, who were not and will never be named. St. Luke refers to them as the “many others” and “the other women” who followed Christ through His ministry.
This website seeks to provide a framework for consideration of our somewhat anonymous lives as modern Christians, using St. Joanna as inspiration and a symbol of the other nameless, anonymous disciples who populated her world and who no doubt populate ours. It is not a work of historical scholarship. It is not founded on archaeological discoveries, ancient writings, or other primary sources which might directly illuminate the details of Joanna’s life with historic accuracy. It is instead a grateful labor born of inspiration and meditation, a work which invites others to consider this unknown, nearly forgotten woman whose circumstances might teach us so much about our own modern Way if we only examine in our hearts the life she may have led, the choices she might have made, and the impact she may have had on others. It is only one example of a personal attempt to discern the reasons why St. Joanna was chosen by God to stand as a model for Christians to come, left as a pearl for modern Christians to discover. I pray it will encourage others to think of her in the context of their own lives and experiences and draw hope and support from her. She has much to tell us.