A Biblical Model of Counseling and Therapy in Christian Ministry:
The Woman of Samaria recovering from her bad Memories (John 4)
By Dr. Jean-Michel MARTIN
1. The Context
Let's follow Jesus in his journey through Samaria, step by step.
v.4: he must go through Samaria, he had to... Why? Could he have gone another way,
geographically speaking? Maybe he had something in mind, or he was an agitator?
Context of conflict, competition and exclusion
Places of conflict, competition and exclusion:
* the City of Sychar with Jerusalem: where is the right place for worshiping (v.5, 21)?
* Samaria with Israel: which one is the right country to live on (v.20) ?
Garizim Mountain with Sinai: where is the only place to be blessed
by God (v.2-24)?
* the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph and Jacob's well: where is the
right place to get the benediction of the father (v.5,6,12)?
People in conflict, rivalry, competition and exclusion:
* the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John (v.1 and
* the Samaritan Woman with Jesus as a man and as a Jew (v.9)
* Jacob the father, in the memory of the lady (v.12)
* the woman with herself and with her different husbands (v.16-18)
* the Samaritans with the Jews (v.9, 20): which people are best, my tribe or yours?
* the own disciples of Jesus with the woman and with Jesus himself (v.27)
* the Samaritans with the woman: "Now we believe, not because of thy saying, because
we have heard him ourselves..." (v.42)
Time(s) in conflict and of exclusion:
* the bad memory of Jacob's and Joseph's history (v.5-6): that reminds us of the jealousy
of Joseph's brethren. That pushed them trying to kill their brother and to make to suffer
the father very much
* the woman comes to the well at the sixth hour (v.6): very hot moment, when the sun was
shining at the zenith. The woman is in marge of her family, of her society and of the
* "the Jews have no dealings (s u g c r w n t a i ) with the Samaritans" (v.9).
they do never live in harmony of time, no moment to do something in common, no harmony in
the past, in the present and no future together! People live in time(s) of conflict (it is
always too late or too early) and exclusion, in places of rivalry and competition. They
use to say: "When we were young, in our generation, things were so much better. We
are missing the magic time of the golden past".
2. Psychological Explanation: Towards a Biblical Model of
and Therapy in Christian Ministry
Jesus does not want to be involved in this competition, rivalry and exclusive way of
thinking and handling. He is integrative and inclusive; he keeps on his effort to overcome
all the gaps in us and between us. He is a wall-breaker and a bridge-builder.
He comes in contact with the woman and keeps in touch with her instead all her efforts to
cut the link (v.8 and following).
He has a dynamic approach: "Give me to drink". By asking her to provide for
water, and by accepting to depend on her, he brings her to move and to react. It is a way
to build up the bridge of contact, to escape from the prison of loneliness, separation and
self-denial. It's a good way to reach the heard made of stone, and to abandon the defense
The woman, who feels no condemnation, is ready to give up (slowly but surely) her desert
and her ghetto. She is able to surrender and let up her old close system: "Sir, give
me this water that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw". Living water of a
sprinkling spring has a much better taste than stagnant water from an old well.
Now has come the right time, the right place, with the right person, to make the big
change, in the way of thinking, of feeling and of handling:
|* no more exclusive thinking regarding other people:
"we are the only ones, the best..." "more clever than..."
|* no more competition with others or oneself: we don't
have to prove that we are number one in the struggle of life (social Darwinism),
|* we can overcome the bad feelings resulting from our
wrong ways of thinking (anger, fears, anxiety, self-depreciation, and isolation...)
|* if we are dry inside, and if we suffer in our
relationships (marriage, family, church, society..), all this places of malediction ,
pain, grief or sorrow may become places of blessing and of rest,
|* memories are no more bad places we have to hide away,
but flowers we can pick to compose a bunch of hope
|* despite our failures, we are not deprived of the call to
be his children, his friends,
|* to be a Christian, is not to avoid all errors, mistakes,
but to overcome them
|* we all have to grow up in our faith, because faith is a
growing process, not just a static situation related to a closed place and lived by closed
people. We must move forwards, with the possibility to fall, to tumble down. Our duty (and
privilege), is to know that we can raise up again
|* time (if it is good managed), is no more an enemy we
have to hide away, but a friend we can meet in calm, in its three dimensions:
|the past, by
integrating the painful memories, by taking lessons from it, by cutting the knots of
bondage and by overcoming the bad feelings as hate, anger, fear, bitterness...
the present: by thinking before acting or handling, by
taking the decision to change things that have to be changed, by being involved in
the future: making realistic projects, according to
our possibilities, and following preconceived plans.
The woman was narrow-minded, Jesus is worlviewish. She had no real past
and no future, because she felt guilty and lost, isolated; Jesus has a past, a present to
share and a project to realize. She just tried to survive, He gives life and reasons for
living, and she just tried to survive. She seemed to be in a prison (before she changed),
He makes free, He is willing helping people to change, telling them not when things can
change, but how to do for changing them. When she felt accepted and not condemned, she was
ready to declare to her Samaritan fellows: "Come and see, a man who told me all
that I ever did" (v.29). She now expresses a deep confession of faith, a witness
of liberation and redemption. The content of her discourse is the mention of her past
mistakes, and her intention is to share the joy of the threefold dimension of
reconciliation: with God, with her neighborhood and with herself.
She became a good-news evangelist, a forgiveness preacher: "many of the
Samaritans believed because of the saying, which testified. He told me all that I ever
did" (v.39). The past mistakes, the previous errors become a good opportunity
for preaching the good news of liberation, of Christ's disclosure as the Savior, the
redeemer: "He is our peace... he has broken down the wall of partition between
He can bring peace to our families, to our churches and to our personal life, in our world
of feelings, emotions, ideas and relationships, in our past, in our present and in our
coming mission field. He, "the Christ, the Savior of the World" (v.42).