Saturday, January 24, 2015
Random Thoughts: Joanna and Augustine
Luke 24:10 Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles.
My mind is filled with random thoughts this morning as I read again through the resurrection story. There are those moments when it dawns on you that you’ve never paid attention to all the names mentioned somewhere. Mostly when we think about the resurrection of Jesus Christ we think about Mary Magdalene’s presence at the tomb. She’s the one who’s made it into all the Easter musicals and lives on in our memories. Today my eyes fell on the name of Joanna. Nobody sings about Joanna. Her name is never really mentioned and yet, here she is captured in the gospel written by Luke and she goes with Mary to the tomb, only to discover that it is empty.
This Joanna should not be new to us. She has been serving Jesus for a long time. She is the wife of Chuza who manages the household of Herod Antipas who lives in Galilee. We first hear of her in Luke chapter 8, “2 as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3 and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources. “ These were women of influence and financial resource who traveled with Jesus and were his disciples. Later on they were included in the list of the Apostles. Two contemporary scholars, Ben Witherington and Richard J. Bauckham believe that she is Junia who is mentioned later by Paul in his greetings in Acts 16.
The conclusion that can be drawn is that Joanna is a successful woman of great means who consecrates her life in service to Jesus Christ. She gives what she has to follow him and becomes one of the first evangelists —sharing the good news about Jesus to the world! Among those who knew her and her reputation in the early centuries of Christianity, she was considered an apostle.
The other random thought that fills my mind today is the way in which we have understood Augustine. There have been some things that he has written about women that make us a bit uncomfortable. This is especially true regarding some of his comments in regard to the image of God and whether the image can be restored in women or not. However, his writings on today’s passage are an encouragement to me. In Sermon 232 he writes about this Scripture and notes that humanity’s fall through a woman is now restored through women.
So in this fact we have to reflect on the goodness of the Lord’s arrangements, because this, of course, was the doing of the Lord Jesus Christ that it should be the female sex which would be the first to report that he had risen again. Humanity fell through the female sex; humankind was restored through the female sex. A virgin gave birth to Christ; a woman proclaimed that he had risen again. Through a woman death, through a woman life. But the disciples didn’t believe what the women had said. They thought they were raving, when in fact they were reporting the truth. SERMON 232.2.
Augustine was writing near the end of the 4th and beginning of the 5th century and these were words of affirmation for the women who were suffering under the changes within Christianity. Christianity was aligning herself more and more with the official government authorities and while women had been leaders in the early centuries of the Church they would now be pushed into obscurity as the Church adopted the government’s power structures. Augustine’s sermon was radical when placed within the context of his time.
Random thoughts on a woman named Joanna and a great church Father by the name of Augustine. Two individuals who helped to shape Christianity.
Random thoughts, or blessings of individuals who were willing to make a difference by giving their lives wholeheartedly in service to God?
This week has been filled with encounters of individuals who are making a difference by what they were doing in the kingdom. Every day we are blessed by random encounters with people who are serving God faithfully and are continually pointing the way to Christ.
My random encounter today was in the word. Maybe there will be another random encounter in an airport. Or maybe you’ll encounter someone through whom God can speak and minister to you. I’ve overlooked Joanna for a very long time. Who else have I overlooked in my life? Maybe we have overlooked too many who could have not just been random encounters but regular ministrations to our spiritual well-being.
Lord, thanks for this morning’s encounter and may there be more throughout the day. Amen.