But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance watching these things. (Luke 23:49, NRSV)
They have no names in Luke, the followers from Galilee, the women who stood at a distance. A predictably stressful trip to the big city for the holiday became a disaster, dinner with trusted friends giving way to betrayal, arrest, a night without sleep as they waited for word. The new day brought no solace. They watched the cross carried, saw other women — who didn’t know him — wailing and beating their breasts, maybe the same ones who yelled, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
They watched the lots cast, his clothing divided by strangers, robes they brushed against serving at table the night before.
They watched and listened, heard the scoffing insults, read the sign over his head:
This is the King of the Jews.”
But this was the King of Love, speaking kindly to the criminal beside him. The women stood at a distance; even if they could not hear his words, they recognized his tone and his expression.
Their hearts tuned to his love, they did not run. They blinked back. They swallowed hard. They waited. They waited to see what the authorities would do, watched for a chance to care for his body. When they knew where he would be, they went to prepare the spices and ointments.
At the tomb, we will hear their names, but for today, remember how they followed and stood at a distance, fierce and waiting. Remember their perspective, not just their view of the terrible way he died, but their understanding of his life and their love for him. Remember their witness, their determined patience through the long, hard day.
I imagine they drew strength from him, but I imagine they drew it from each other, too. I imagine clasped hands, familiar postures, shallow breaths, faces set toward Jerusalem just like his.
They waited at a distance to do one more good service.