“I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 8 for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11 And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 15 I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. 16 They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
You know what’s the most ferocious animal in all of creation? It’s any mama animal whose babies are being threatened. I’d rather face male black bear than a mama possum if I got too close to the babies.
There’s a fierce natural sense of protection by mamas. They will, without batting an eye, attack anything no matter how big, if they think their babies are in danger. This is generally true for human mamas too. Think about that image on this Mothers’ Day.
Biblical gender language aside, since God really isn’t male (we all know this, right?) I think that’s the kind of maternal protection that Jesus is praying about in this text. He’s praying that God would protect Jesus’s disciples with that kind of ferocity. Like a mama protecting her babies.
Mamas don’t fiercely protect their babies so the babies can sleep in their cave the rest of their lives. Mamas protect their babies so they can learn to be OK in this world, to take care of themselves, become big bears, raccoons, sparrows, humans, whatever. It’s not just protection for its own sake, but protection with a purpose. It’s protection so that the baby can grow up and be what it is intended to be.
That’s what Jesus is praying for in this text from John. He prays that the Father (the Mama?) would protect disciples in God’s own name so they may be one in the same way Jesus and this Mama God are one. Then he prays they would be protected from evil as they go into the world.
Whenever there’s something in the Bible about “names,” it’s more than what you tell people to call you. “Name” has to do with character, the essence of the person. So protecting us disciples in God’s name has to do with protecting us in the very nature of God—Jesus’s prayer is that we be protected in this Mama God’s fierce love, mercy, grace, and compassion. That love in all its ferocity would surround us and hold us and keep us in unity with God, but also so we can venture out into this difficult world knowing we are protected in love the whole time.
This Mama God’s protection is not so we can sleep in our caves the rest of our lives. It’s not so we can be safe inside our church buildings. It’s not so we can feel safe because we know the right things or believe the right things or understand the right things. Being protected in God’s love is so we can love with this fierce Mama-love as we were created to do—as full human beings in the image of God. Lives full of love and joy and compassion and grace.
And now, protected in this love that keeps Jesus and this Mama God together in unity, we are sent into the world. Because that’s what the Mama God’s love for Jesus has done. Sent him into the world, protected in love, in order to be free to love. That’s the whole point, isn’t it? That being protected in love, Jesus was free to love us with that same fierceness.
And good thing, too. Because protected in the ferocity of the Mama God’s love, Jesus was free to love us with that same intensity. He would take on anyone, anything, if he thought it would endanger our unity with him. Even if it cost him his life, he was protected in love so he could show that love.
And since we are now united with him in that same ferocious love, we have that same protection in order to love the world the same way. We, too, are sent into the world, protected in love, and set free to love just like Jesus. We don’t have to worry about who deserves it, or who will love us back, or who is like us or unlike us, who’s right or who’s wrong. We are always protected, like a Mama’s babies, so that we can love just as ferociously.
It’s a Mothers’ Day image that is rather compelling for me. A Mama God protecting her babies with love. Jesus, united in this Mama God with love, is sent to include us in that love. So now we too, as Jesus prayed, are brought in, united in this fierce Mama God’s protection of love. And we too, knowing we are fiercely protected in love by this Mama God and Jesus, are free to venture into the world to show that same love.
Nothing can prevent this Mama God from loving us. Nothing better try, because there’s nothing in all creation as fierce as a mama whose babies are being threatened. That’s how fiercely we are loved. That’s how fiercely we are protected. And that’s how fiercely we are set free to love the rest of the world.