Before He was arrested, tried and crucified, Jesus asked His disciples to keep watch while He prayed. Many Christians today participate in a symbolic watch—a time for holy meditation—from Maundy Thursday night through Good Friday morning.
John O. Cheney reports that during the watch he was “continually challenged to find something to meditate on.” His book, Meditations for the Watch, delves into eight biblical topics — from Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem to the villains of the crucifixion — to help guide Christians’ contemplations during times for holy reflection.
The strength of Cheney’s meditations lies in his ability to pull readers into the mindset of the many characters involved in perhaps the most well-known story of all time: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For example, in the chapter “Death, Resurrection and Faith,” Cheney paints the historical landscape of the Jewish nation at the time Jesus arrived on the scene. With ease and clarity he summarizes the political tensions and stress in which Jewish leaders were immersed, creating a viable sympathy for their plight and shining light on how difficult it must have been to handle Jesus’ spreading fame. An added bonus is that each chapter is a stand-alone unit and chapters may be read in any order.
The weakest link in the book is Cheney’s “Meditation of James.” What could have been a colorful account whisking readers back in time becomes a flat paraphrase of the gospel. This problem of merely rewording the events of the New Testament occurs in other chapters as well. In addition, Cheney misuses words at times; on page 27, for example, he writes “downright mean and viscous” (instead of “vicious’).
Still, Cheney’s imperfections may be forgiven, as his contributions will be welcomed by many seeking to improve their time on the watch. Cheney gently challenges readers to contribute their own meditations to Christian society. “If your thoughts are flawed,” he writes, “welcome to the club.”
Also available in hardcover and ebook.