The bronze serpent, lifted up on the pole by Moses, was a vivid reminder that in God alone could the Israelites find relief and deliverance from the deadly effects of their sinful ingratitude. The serpents were described as fiery because their bite caused a burning sensation and often ended in death. The God, whom the Israelites offended was the God who had first saved them. We too need to be saved from our sins which damage not alone others but ourselves also. We need to be saved from ourselves. But to whom do we look?
In today's Gospel and even more clearly in his third chapter John tells us that Jesus, lifted up in glory on the cross and in his resurrection, heals all the poisonous, potentially death - dealing bites of sin. To look up to Jesus in confidence and trust is one important aspect of our faith in him.
To draw further on the rich symbolism of Christ lifted up on the cross, we can reflect that we will be washed clean by the water that flows from the pierced side of Christ.
The sign of a true shepherd-king was his concern for his people. Despite his pain on the way to the cross and on the cross itself, Jesus was aware of and available to the women of Jerusalem, to the criminal by his side, to the soldiers who were mocking Him, to the people who left the cross striking their breast. The cross is justifiably considered the throne of a King who has everyone's good at heart.
Water from the side of Christ wash me.