Philippians 2:5-11 is a passage that the girls and I memorized during homeschool. It's also one of the passages that I end up mentally reciting at night when I can't sleep. And this is why I memorize scripture: the Spirit inevitably brings up new insights during those silent recitations in the dark.
Like the other night. At about 4:45am, when I realized I really was awake and didn't seem to be drifting back to sleep any time soon, I started in on these words:
I've always glossed a bit over that last clause. He laid down his divinity temporarily -- yeah, yeah. But something hit me this time. Grasping equality with God . . . that was the original sin. Why did Eve eat the apple? Because the serpent told her she would become like God. And that's the essence of every sin we commit; we're trying to be God, our own God, running our own life, deciding what is best for us and those around us and how the world should be run, and choosing to act on our own volition rather than as servants of God.
And that's what Jesus did NOT do. He did not consider equality with God something to be grasped (the new NIV says "something to be used to his own advantage"), but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant . . .
In the back of my head, where I didn't want to admit what could be a heretical thought, I've always thought it really isn't that big of a deal that Jesus lived a sinless life. He was God, after all. He didn't have the "sinful nature" we had, so it wasn't so hard for him. But what this is saying is, he intentionally chose NOT to use his divine advantage in that battle against sin. He chose to live his human life as a human.
And he did that so he could demonstrate for us how we are supposed to live as a human. He was essentially in the same condition as the regenerated believer -- living in a corrupt sinful world, in corrupt sinful flesh, with the attack of the Enemy all around but with the Holy Spirit indwelling him. He is our model. He didn't just show us that we are supposed to live without sin; he showed us how to do that -- the methods, the techniques, the means for doing so.
For example, how did he resist Satan's temptations in the wilderness? With the Word. He could have called ten thousand angels (as the old song says) to help him, but instead, he used the same weapons we have, to show us how it's done.
And here's where the cool part comes in for me. Remember the vine and branches business I said I've been inundated with lately? Well, I'm realizing that Jesus also lived like a branch with the Father as his vine. He said he didn't speak or act on his own; he only said what the Father gave him to say, did what the Father gave him to do, and did it all to glorify the Father. "I am in the Father, and the Father is in me." Everything I'm expected to do as a "branch", he already showed me how to do. He made himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant . . . and became obedient unto death.
Synthesis: the bringing of separate things together into one great, glorious, lucid whole. LOVE when that happens!