Joanna – A Leader who Refused to be Defined by her Past
By: Lisa Leonce
At first glance Joanna may not seem that interesting as a leader in the Bible, but she has some amazing leadership qualities which can teach us valuable lessons. She is the wife of Chuza, the steward/business manager for Herod Antipas’ – the son of King Herod the Great. Herod Antipas was the one who had John the Baptist executed at the request of Salome. Joanna and her husband Chuza would have enjoyed social prominence as a wealthy couple in their area.
Joanna was not well, although the Bible doesn’t say whether she was demon-possessed or suffered from a mental or physical disability or an incurable disease. However, we know it was something significant, unable to be cured through the usual known practices. Their status would have given them access to skilled healers and priest-physicians who were deemed appropriate healers for disease thought to be caused by spirits or demons. However, Jesus heals her (Luke 8:1-3) and she actively advocates for Jesus’ ministry.
Joanna’s Leadership skills:
- Establishing Direction; creating visions/aims, problem anticipation, making tough decisions.
The decision to actively follow and support Jesus’ ministry may not have been easy. She was a Jew, with a strong Jewish name, and directly been associated with Herod’s court. She would have known of the death of John the Baptist for speaking the truth. She would not have been popular either way – betraying her people, siding with Gentiles. It is safe to assume that on her journey with Jesus, not all the people she met, supported, worked alongside and ministered to would have been welcoming or grateful. Joanna would have known the pain of rejection, the hurt of being rejected for who you once were rather than being accepted for who you now are. Nevertheless, her character was stronger than that. The only person’s approval she wanted was Jesus, so she willingly chose a life of wandering, discomfort, fear and risk of death, together with a life of generosity, courage, and faithfulness.
- Motivating and inspiring others; influencing and empowering people, overcoming barriers.
Joanna did not let her past, fear, family or friends stop her from following Jesus, and it is believed that she was an influence inside Herod’s palace by living out and speaking about her faith. The bible tells us that Manaen, an officer in Herod’s kingdom followed Christ (Acts 13:1) and Herodion – one of Herod’s officers was a believer (Romans 16:11) all after Joanna’s decision to follow Jesus. Joanna overcame barriers aligning people and used her circle of influence, she had access to buildings and people the other Galileans did not.
- Servanthood, humility and enlightening culture.
Joanna crossed the gulf between an upper-class Jewish women in 1st Century Palestine, to a humble serving woman. She chose to leave a comfortable lifestyle to pursue Jesus’ ministry which involved travelling with mainly illiterate men, using her money/goods/property to provide funds and material backing for God’s purpose. This was counter-cultural for this time, the man was generally the financial supporter for women, so for Jesus and the men around to accept this was phenomenal. Jesus’ also tells us about servanthood and humility leadership in the bible a number of times; Matthew 18:4, Luke 9:48, John 13:1-16. It is through her servanthood, humility and dedication, that Joanna becomes one of the first women disciples and one of the most powerful disciples and evangelist – which is exactly what Jesus said would happen (John 13:1:16-17).
- Commitment and loyalty.
Commitment is not always valued these days as a quality. The conscious decision to commit which is not based on feelings, circumstances, position, status or role, is uncommon. Yet commitment is crucial for those who desire to be authentic leaders. Joanna was with Jesus when the crowds were all around Him, and she was with Him when they left. She stayed with Him during His crucifixion, knowing that she could face punishment/death for showing her solidarity with Him. She stayed with Him right till the end, accompanying Him on His last journey to the tomb and afterwards prepared spices, perfume and ointments for His body (Luke 23:55-56). God honoured her commitment to Him by allowing her to be one of the first witnesses to His resurrection and she went and told the disciples the news. She continues to travel with the disciples and was more likely one of the women mentioned in the upper room during Pentecost (Acts 1:12-14), where the Holy Spirit filled all of them (Acts 2:1-4). She would have known that as a woman she had no credibility to witness in her society, yes in spite of that she is a witness, even going as far as Rome, where there is a theory that she changed her name to a Latin form – Junia. Joanna stayed loyal even when all seemed lost and she was imprisoned and persecuted for her Christian mission (Romans 16:7).
Joanna means God is gracious and she is a Leader we can gleam and learn from. She learnt directly from Jesus how to lead, she was not distracted, limited or deterred by negativity. She had heard from God and carried on, regardless of her past or present circumstances.
- For each of the leadership skills listed, score yourself as you are now from 1-10 (1 being the lowest and 10 the highest). Then score for each where you would like to be. For any skill which has a gap in score, write down any barriers stopping you reaching your desired score e.g. past experiences, negative and limited beliefs. Now write down how you are going to get support in improving those skills. Then finally, write down who you are going to trust to support you and hold you accountable in improving those skills, contact them now.
Leadership Skill Score Now Desired Score
- Establishing Direction
- Creating visions/aims
- Problem anticipation
- Making tough decisions
- Motivating others
- Inspiring others
- Influencing people
- Empowering people
- Overcoming barriers
- Enlightening culture
- Commitment and loyalty