From Old to New Testament, God has undoubtedly used women and woven them into His story for humanity. I have always loved studying the women in the Bible and admire the immense faith many of them had. The stories that include the famous names of Ruth, Esther, Hannah, and Mary, among others, have always been my favorites.
However, during a recent deep study of the gospels, I took notice of a new name: Susanna.
She is found in Luke’s Gospel:
“Afterward [Jesus] was traveling from one town and village to another, preaching and telling the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with Him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses: Mary, called Magdalene (seven demons had come out of her); Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward; Susanna; and many others who were supporting them from their possessions."
-Luke 8: 1-3 (CSB)
Susanna is not mentioned anywhere else in the Bible. That’s it.
Since Scripture is God’s infallible word, no verses are present without purpose. So while subtle, the mention of Susanna’s name is significant. There are four specific things we know about Susanna from Luke 8:1-3.
1: Jesus healed Susanna to some extent.
We are not given details, but Scripture indicates that Susanna was a recipient of Jesus’ miraculous healing power. She may have been delivered from a physical ailment, a mental affliction, or perhaps even a spiritual sickness. Regardless of the nature of her healing, Jesus radically changed the trajectory of her life and she reacted accordingly by following Him.
2: She was a public supporter of Jesus’ ministry.
Given the cultural climate of the day, this public association was a detriment to both Jesus and Susanna, putting both of their reputations at stake. Women were seen as second-class citizens. A woman was perceived as the property of her father, until she was married in which she was then the property of her husband. If a woman spoke to a man not her husband in public, it was considered scandalous.
Clearly, Jesus did not allow the social strata of the day define how He would run His ministry. He welcomed women to be a part of it and did not care how it made others perceive him. In order to follow Jesus, Susanna had to leave her home and family. Did her family support her decision? Did it cause a riff with a best friend? We don’t know! But there is no doubt that significant sacrifices were required to follow Jesus, especially as a woman. Susanna counted those costs and chose to publicly associate with Jesus anyway.
3: She provided financially for Jesus’ ministry with her own funds.
It was not unusual at this time for traveling rabbis to have women supporters. What was unusual was that these women were on the road with the Rabbi. Jesus’ ministry had very practical needs. Food would need to be provided and prepared for a large group on the move. Lodging would need to be secured as the group moved from town to town. This required resources. We do not know details about how these women acquired funds, but the text implies that these were funds the women earned, not donations they collected. Perhaps they picked up odd jobs as they traveled. Maybe they were able to sell hand-made products. Susanna contributed in her own unique way.
4: She was a well-known member of the early church.
In the gospels, if someone is mentioned by name, it is significant. Usually a specific name would be used because the person was known personally by the author and/or the author's primary audience. After traveling with the apostles for a few years, Susanna probably had an integral role in the early church, sharing her experiences and spreading the good news of the Gospel with the growing church community. We also know from the book of Acts that Luke was a companion of Paul, so it is reasonable to think Susanna was involved with that circle of early believers. Susanna may have even been one of the eye-witnesses Luke consulted in order to write his gospel account.
So what are the implications?
Maybe Susanna didn’t have the dramatic story that Mary Magdalene did – freed from seven demons! Maybe she didn’t have the prominent social status that Joanna did – a husband who worked in Herod’s household! But Jesus transformed her and she responded. As a result, Susanna is permanently documented in the Word of God as playing an integral role in Jesus’ ministry, nothing more, nothing less, and somehow, that is everything. Isn’t that what we should all strive for?
The John MacArthur Study Bible (NASB)
Christian Standard Bible (CSB)
The Unique World of Women: In Bible Times & Now by Eugenia Price
Luke: The Gospel of Amazement by Michael Card
Insights for Living: Jesus & Women by Chuck Swindoll