Q. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24, KJV)
My question is, in the context of this verse, exactly what does taking up one’s cross refer to? Does it mean bearing infirmities or illness, and if so, how does this square with your articles regarding healing?
A. In the passage surrounding Matt 16:24, Peter was rebuking the Lord for saying he had to suffer and be killed and then raised up on the third day. Peter swore he would never let that happen, but would protect the Lord, which he later tried to do (Matt. 26:51).
Jesus accused him of seeing things as man does, not as God does. He had agreed to die for our sins before the foundation of the world, and Peter’s loyalty was misplaced, having the effect of putting the control of events in his hands instead of God’s.
The phrase “deny Himself and take up his cross” in Matt. 16:24 means that a follower of Jesus needs to abandon his will for his life in favor of God’s will for him. In Romans 12:1-2 Paul described this as presenting our whole beings as living sacrifices, refusing to be conformed to the patterns of this world but being transformed by the renewing of our minds.
If by your question you’re asking if God makes some people sick and then demands that they bear their sickness for Him, that would contradict the promise of Isaiah 53:4. Jesus took up our infirmities (sickness) and carried our sorrows (grief). He never asks us to do that for Him. Sickness and death came into the world as a result of sin. We’re all sinners and we all live in a sinful place. It’s a part of our environment.
It is true that some people turn personal health tragedies into incredible demonstrations of God’s grace, but to say that God orchestrated their illness for that purpose is to question His word that the punishment He endured was for our peace, and the wounds He received were to make it possible for us to be healed (Isaiah 53:5).