When you read the Bible do you ever find yourself sort of skimming over the names? Be honest. When I come to a long genealogy or a list of names that are hard to pronounce I often find myself just kind of skipping down to where the “real” text starts again.
Recently I have been reading through the gospels and currently I am working my way through Luke. The other day I was reading in Luke 8 and by some miracle I actually slowed down long enough to read all the words that are actually there.
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
Have you ever heard of Joanna the wife of Chuza? I am sure I read her name before but I don’t ever remember thinking much about her. Who is this Joanna? And what the heck is a Chuza?
Turns out Joanna is only mentioned two places in all the gospels. Here and in Luke 24:10. Joanna is the wife of a guy named Chuza who happens to be the manager of Herod’s household. This is the same Herod involved in the beheading of John the Baptist and who will later show up at the very end of Jesus’ life. Herod was the appointed ruler of the Galilean region.
So the wife of the guy who runs Herod’s household was cured of an evil spirit or disease of some sort and has become a follower of Jesus! Isn’t that an interesting collision of worlds? But that’s not was really caught my attention.
Luke notes that she was part of supporting Jesus’ ministry. God used Joanna as part of his plan. Then fast forward a little bit more and it turns out that it is likely this same Joanna who Luke records in chapter 24 was one of the very first witnesses to the resurrection. Here is a woman, whose name barely registers on my radar…who I have probably skipped over the many times I have read Luke…and yet God didn’t skip over her at all. She was an important part of supporting Jesus’ ministry and she actually has the unfathomable privilege of being one of the handful of first witnesses to the Risen Lord.
Now contrast that back to Herod. Reading on I noticed a little phrase in Luke 9:9. Hearing about all that Jesus is doing it simply states, “And he tried to see him.” This is the ruler of the region. And he tried to see him, but the gospel seems to suggest he probably didn’t get to until just before the crucifixion. Luke 23:8, “When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him.”
What’s the point?
On the one hand we an important regional leader with plenty of worldly power, but no access to the King of Kings. On the other we have a relatively unknown woman, whose name I have skipped over many times, who was a key partner in Jesus ministry and gets to see the resurrected Jesus face to face. Isn’t it interesting that in the gospels the poorest and most reviled of society are able to gain access to Jesus, but not the ruler of the land?
Joanna “the wife of Chuza” was just as much a part of God’s plan as the Apostle Paul or Peter or Moses or any other famous Bible name you want to fill in. You don’t need name recognition for God to use your life. Here’s the beauty of it…as I heard Dr. Ben Witherington III say recently, “You don’t need to make a name for yourself. God has already given you one.”
You see, God doesn’t skim over parts of your life like you do the Bible genealogies. He doesn’t have trouble pronouncing your name because he gave it to you. The moment you handed your life over to Jesus he called you Beloved. God doesn’t do speed reading in the story of your life. He cares about every Joanna as much as any Herod. He’s got a place for you in His story. And that may or may not come with name recognition for others…but God knows your name. And that’s more than enough.