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JOHN 4:4-26; 4:39-42

By Rev Dr Gordon Moyes

We have seen in the last ten years the rise of an entirely new sub-group of women in Australia - the sassy woman. In western countries their significance is growing. It is the natural development of the increasing role of women in business, the professions and politics. Their role in films has spread their influence worldwide, largely since the great success of "Titanic". That developed a whole genre of new films called "Chick flicks". Today sassy women are declared the most powerful people in Hollywood.
At the same time a whole raft of television sit-coms have arrived on our screens featuring sassy women. Take any Monday night for example: "Ally McBeal", "Felicity", "Friends", "Sex In The City", "Seinfeld" and at least six others featuring sassy women. Every Friday night in the bars of major international hotels in our largest cities, there is a new phenomenon. They are crowded with women, in their late twenties and thirties, uniformly dressed in black. The noise is high-level and energetic. In Melbourne, I stood on the mezzanine and looked at the crowded bar of about 800. Two thirds were sassy women encircling similar men. In Sydney there are a dozen similar locations. A man from the country dressed in open necked shirt, tweed sports jacket and elastic-sided boots would stick out like a woman in a pink twin set and pearls. This is a new era. The sassy women are taking over. The banks seek their accounts. Macquarie Bank advertisements picture one saying, "I used to want to marry a millionaire. Now I just intend to be one." Money, sexual exploits, business, power - these are the conversation points of sassy women.

This week in an international gynecological conference here, a professor stated that one in three of these women will never have children, mostly because they cannot sustain a relationship before their biological clock runs out. They usually live in serial partnerships but recognize that a permanent relationship is required for child rearing. Two out of three will not sustain a married relationship. The professor also said of the one in three having children, they would average only one child and there would be more born by caesarian section than by natural childbirth. These women do not like the idea of long and painful childbirth and they prefer to know exactly the time of birth so it can be planned into the electronic diary.

The rise of the sassy woman is new to our country but there have been sassy women in America for a long time. The word "sassy" is an American variety of the English word "saucy". But it is also an acronym meaning Single, Affluent, Stylish, Sexy and Young. Jesus once encountered a sassy woman in a world in which they were a rarity. The longest conversation recorded in the New Testament is with her. They met at the mid-city watering hole, the well at Sychar. The well is still there. It is 75 feet deep and has watered the people from the city for four thousand years continuously, since Jacob dug it. The conversation is a classic in how a sassy woman speaks. And the comments from Jesus are a study in incredible psychological insights that eventually change the woman's life. Her whole life is cleaned up and changed and she develops new purpose and a new destiny. It is a remarkable account of conversion and of the way Jesus can give you deep satisfaction.

So many people wear a mask and hide their real selves. Any Friday night in the bar of the Hotel Intercontinental, or at the Regent or ANA, you will hear noisy, successfully women, all under the influence of expensive drinks, telling tall tales of their conquests and business success. A researcher tells me that a high percentage of the talk is about sexual experiences or hopes. Women talk more explicitly than men. Many of those women hide themselves beneath all the talk. Jesus asked this sassy woman for a drink of water as she brought her bucket to the well. She started on the issues of race, gender and religion. "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?" (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)" Women at that time never spoke with men in public. They never, ever discussed matters of religion or race with men, and certainly not with a stranger. But this woman is forward, unafraid, very much in control. Jesus accepted her as she came to him. He does that with each of us - accepts us as we are.

The place most people hide is within themselves. In the conversation she deflects what Jesus is saying to her. First she deliberately misunderstands Him. John 4:10-12 "Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water." "Sir, you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?"

She is just pretending to misunderstand. She is in control of this conversation and is flirting with Him. Second she is directing the conversation where she wants it to go. Jesus treats her with dignity and courtesy. But He directs the conversation back to spiritual matters: John 4:13-15 "Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." That was His promise - spiritual blessing a like a spring of living water which would well up within. For just a moment she thought of what that would be like. Her life, so full of pretense and guilt, could be washed clean and she would have fresh spiritual resources within. It seemed so good.

She smiles and says: "Sir, give me this water…. (but just as quickly she reverts to her pretense)… so that I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water." She is back in control and hiding. She wants to change the subject away from herself and her need. Like a hundred sassy women in Sydney bars, she has worked her way to success and affluence and she is not going to allow a man to speak of her inner needs. She puts on a pretense and hides.

In a manner typical of those modern psychiatrists who know how to make you confront the thing you are hiding, Jesus asks her to do a simple deed: "Go, call your husband and come back." The woman looked at the ground. She knew He knew. John 4:17-18"I have no husband," she replied." Like sassy Sydney women, she had no normal marriage relationships.

He had said "husband". She wanted to reply "partner". He pressed on: "You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true." Six men and no satisfaction! She had started flirting with Him, but He seemed to know all about her. She came laughing, wanting to talk with him and show she was not confined by social taboos; that she was well-dressed, ready to party, saucy. But now, this conversation had just become too personal! She wanted out! He knew and He had said so. Quickly she took control of herself. For a moment she had lost it. But not now.

She took control of the conversation once more: John 4:19-20 "Sir," the woman said, "I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem." She was re-directing the conversation. She was saying: "Get off my moral failings. If you can know this about me, you must be a Prophet of God, So let's talk prophet talk. Where is the correct place to worship?" Like some modern sassy woman who says, "Don't you think the Pope is interfering in people's private behaviour?" The inexperienced counselor will fall for the trap and go off talking about the Pope instead of her behaviour. Jesus is too wise. He answers her question in a way that reminds her, that God is here and knows all about her. John 4:21-24 "Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.

Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and His worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." His answer was polite, true and in a manner she could answer. She does so with true humility. She is not pretending now: John 4:25-26 "The woman said, "I know that Messiah, called Christ, is coming. When He comes, He will explain everything to us." Then Jesus declared, "I, who speak to you, am He." No tricky responses now. Just deep thought. The One standing before her - the Christ? Her intelligence and sauciness always had her in control, but now? Could it be that He was the anticipated Messiah?

The scene is interrupted by a dozen men who come to the well. The disciples had bought supplies in the shops. John 4:27-30 "Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, "What do you want?" or "Why are you talking with her?" Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, "Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?" They came out of the town and made their way toward Him." The water pot, her antipathy towards the other women - all forgotten! A smart, sassy woman, who had lived in relationships with half a dozen men, is not popular with other women in the town. That is why she was out in the heat of the day on her own, getting water. In villages, the women came to draw water together, in a social way, in the cool of sundown. She had previously wanted to avoid the other women. But not now.

Now she ran back intro the town and told every one of a new man in her life. John 4:39-42 "Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in Jesus because of the woman's testimony, "He told me everything I ever did." So when the Samaritans came to Him, they urged Him to stay with them, and He stayed two days. And because of His words many more became believers. They said to the woman, "We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Saviour of the world."

So the sassy woman ended up bringing other people to faith. She had become the first evangelist of the Christian church. Once alienated from other women, she was now leading them to faith. Once lonely in spite of her partnerships with many men, she was now friend of many. Once empty with a huge thirst inside, she was now satisfied with living water. Once guilty and shameful, she was now really happy!

What a change from a chance encounter at the city watering hole. How we long for that experience for every sassy woman: to come to know the changes that Jesus can bring. Her real need was for love, real love. Now she had acceptance, friendship, respectability, forgiveness and love! Sometimes we need that living water. Come to Jesus and ask: "Sir, give me a drink." His promise to you is simply: "Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst again. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." That is the greatest promise of all. Satisfaction - eternally! Provided you accept Him as Lord, and Christ, the Messiah.

Rev Dr Gordon Moyes

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