Praying Her Name

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Joanna Payton

"After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means."   (Luke 8:1-3) 

55 "The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it." (Luke 23:55) 

"On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “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 over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” Then they remembered his words.
When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense." (Luke 24:1-11)

There is just so much I love about this woman who is only briefly mentioned by name twice in the Bible. Though not much is written about her, by looking into the facts, we can learn a lot about the kind of woman she was, the heart for her Lord, and the influence she had on those around her. After studying this woman, there are 5 things about Joanna that stood out, and have in turn, been praying for our daughter Joanna. (I'm writing those prayers in italics below.) (I got a lot of this commentary from Biblegateway.)

A Sick Woman Healed by Christ

Joanna, along with Mary Magdalene and Susanna were among the “certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities” (8:2). Whether Joanna had been demon-possessed or suffered from some mental or physical disability we are not told. It is evident that this female of the upper class, restored to normal health by Christ, gave her life to Him. She is here seen as one of the traveling company who went before Christ and the Twelve to arrange for their hospitable reception. We don't know what she experienced healing from, but her response to Jesus' healing touch was huge and personal. Out of her own resources many expenses were met, and in this way she ministered unto Him of her substance. Having freely received His healing touch, she freely gave of herself and of her means for His welfare. 

God, we are all sick and in need of a Healer. Sin has separated us and we need the Great Physician to heal our darkened hearts. Draw our daughter to you. You've placed the desire for YOU in every heart; I pray you will cultivate a deep longing in her from an early age to know you and seek you out. Just like you healed Joanna in the Bible, I pray our daughter will have a spirit that is open to your healing of her sinful heart as she surrenders to you. Whatever ailments she may face in her life, whether spiritual, mental or physical, I pray she will always look first to you as Jehovah-Rapha, her healer. I pray she will be a woman of hospitality... that she will be welcoming and warm so that your name may be made great. May she give whatever she has from the fullness of her heart, whether it is a lot or a little. 

A Woman of Power with an Unusual Sphere of Influence

Chuza, the husband of Joanna, was the “steward” of Herod, which is the same word given as “tutor” or “guardian”. Some scholars believe Chuza is the noble man mentioned in John 4:46-54.

46 Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. 47 When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death.48 “Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.”49 The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”50 “Go,” Jesus replied, “your son will live.”The man took Jesus at his word and departed. 51 While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. 52 When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “Yesterday, at one in the afternoon, the fever left him.”53 Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and his whole household believed.54 This was the second sign Jesus performed after coming from Judea to Galilee.

An interesting thought if Chuza truly is the man mentioned in this passage. But regardless of that speculation, Chuza was Herod's highest-ranking servant, someone trusted and respected within the Roman influenced society that had power, influence and wealth. He must have been a man of intelligence and ability in order to hold the position he did as manager of Herod’s household. By employment of her husband, Joanna was fundamentally a rich, significant woman. Because of her close proximity to Herod, it is highly likely that Herod himself may have known about Joanna's personal story of healing at the hands of Jesus. The office of Chuza also gave Joanna an excellent opportunity of witnessing in the palace, and we can imagine how she took full advantage of it. She had the opportunity to reveal the truth about Jesus among the court who only only heard lies from Herod. In fact, tradition has it that Chuza lost his position in Herod’s palace because of his wife’s conversion to Christianity and her courageous testimony among Herod’s servants.

Lord, we pray for the man that our daughter will marry. We pray that you will make him wise and knowledgeable... not just of earthly things, but wise in matters of the eternal. May he be a strong leader, respected by his family and other, but most importantly, seen as a follower of you. May his character and witness be evident to all who come into contact with him. May he lead our daugther with integrity and love, out of a devoted heart to you. 

We also pray that you will use Joanna to be a witness for you in whatever circumstance she is in. Whether that be near to us or far from home, give her a unique sphere of influence wherein the witness of your glory can shine. Give her peace that you will provide for her and never leave her as she seeks and serves you. 

A Generous Supporter of Christ

Healed and saved, Joanna gave thanks. Christ had ministered to her physical restoration and salvation and in turn she ministered to Him. By saying the women supported Jesus out of their own means, we are to understand material possessions, such as money and property, and Joanna honored the Lord with these. Knowing that He and the disciples accompanying Him had very little to support them, Joanna, out of her plenty, gave liberally to their needs and thus exemplified the grace of giving. Let's not forget this was a brave (and probably unpopular) move. Jesus and those in his ministry were strongly disliked by the Jewish and Roman authorities. On Joanna's dime, they were defying the values and power of the very class she belonged to!
Jesus, may you give us wisdom as we teach Joanna that all we have is truly not ours, but it all belongs to you. I pray Joanna will learn to give from a cheerful heart-- not just of her money or possessions but of herself, her time, her heart. 

A Sorrowful Mourner at the Grave of Christ

Among the women at the cross, the heart of Joanna must have been rent with anguish as she saw her beloved Lord dying in agony and shame. She stayed loyal to her Healer and Redeemer-- even as officials she may have personally known were crucifying him. She chose Jesus over opportunity, career and class. She was brave in her following of Him, even to Christ's death- and beyond. The One who had cured her body and her soul had become precious to Joanna, and, having ministered to Him while He was alive, she continued her ministry of love as His body was still and cold in death. 

Jesus, I pray Joanna will be faithful to you. That through tough times, in the face of ridicule or unpopularity, she will cling to what she knows is true- YOU. Give her a brave spirit with a heart that can break for matters that concern you. 

A Joyful Herald of Her Lord’s Resurrection

Continuing her loyalty, even beyond Christ's death, Joanna was among the sorrow-stricken women who early on that first memorable Lord’s Day gathered at the sepulcher to linger in the presence of the dead. But to their amazement the tomb was empty, for the living Lord was no longer among the dead. Perplexed over the vacant grave, they beheld the angelic guardians and heard them say, “He is not here, but is risen: remember what he said to you when you were with him in Galilee.” How could they forget His words! Recalling all He had said of His sufferings, death and Resurrection, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, became the first human heralds of the Resurrection. With all haste they went to the apostles and told them the good news, but for awhile their words seemed as idle tales until Peter saw for himself the graveclothes but no dead Master (Luke 24:1-12). He then believed the women’s declaration of the Lord who was alive forevermore. Joanna, then, was among the last at the cross, and among the first to witness the empty tomb and likewise among the first to proclaim that the Lord whom she had so dearly loved was risen indeed. 

Though brief, I love the story of Joanna and her faith, as well as the faith of the ladies that she was with. What a group they must have been! Think about the last part of this story... the women are telling the Eleven disciples (and others) what the angels had told them about the Risen Christ, but the men did not believe them-- the verse says it sounded like nonsense. These men had been with Jesus all throughout His ministry. They knew him personally. They loved Him. And yet they still thought these women were speaking nonsense. But that didn't stop the women from boldly sharing the truth of Christ through faith. The Eleven would have to see for themselves the empty tomb before they would believe. What an encouragement Joanna and her friends are, even today. 

Lord, I pray you will surround Joanna with godly friends. Girls/women who will encourage her in faith and surround her with truth, even when others doubt. I pray you will give Joanna a heart that is eager to believe your truths, and a sensitivity to guard her heart from things (and people- especially boys) who could lead her astray. May she boldly proclaim the Good News of the Risen Christ. Give her a steadfast heart to know what it is you have asked her to do and the resolve to carry forth your Word in the midst of disbelief. 

What about the middle name??

Payton was a top contender for a first name- both Sean and I love it. But I'm not really big on gender neutral or gender bender names (even though, ironically, Sean & Gia are calling Joanna "Joey) AND let's face it... we live in Indy. Peyton Manning is still king in this town, even though he's literally playing for another team now. But I love the same so much and it has special family meaning-- it is my grandma's maiden name. Her parents, George and Alberta Payton were my great-grandparents (Daddy George and Great Gran). I have very few memories of them, but I love my Gran and remember how fondly she always spoke of her parents. And I love the way she always referred to them as "Momma and Daddy." Its a good, solid, Oklahoma-rooted family name. 

So there you have it! Joanna Payton will be making her debut January 4th-ish.  :)

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