But made himself of no reputation, and took on him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
The phrase states the landing place of Christ's career of humiliation, the antipodes of the contrast, the nadir below which it was impossible for Him to go.
I. WHAT IS DEATH — especially as expressive of the condition to which Jesus humbled Himself? Our modern conception of death has been so illumined by the doctrine of Christian immortality that we are inclined to conceive of the death of Christ simply as an analogue of ours. But death, in the person of Jesus, was the culminating catastrophe in the history of the "Man of sorrows." To us death is the chalice whose poison has been changed by the chemistry of redeeming love into nectar; to Jesus it was a cup full of the concentrated dregs of woe. To us it is a shaft whose sting has been removed; to Him it was an arrow envenomed by the wrath of God against sin. To us it is a victory over the last and mightiest form of evil; to Him it was a surrender to the masterful forces of disorganization and ruin. To us it is an introduction into the presence and companionship of God; to Him it was an abandonment into darkness unrelieved by a ray of Divine light, and whose solitude was unblessed by a whisper of Divine love. The Atonement was no compromise between the demands of justice and the pleadings of mercy. Justice was exacted of Jesus, and mercy was proffered to man. The Deity of Christ gave inconceivable sensitiveness to the agonized consciousness of Jesus; and who shall say that, in that brief hour, Jesus did not experience a sense of the awful demerit of sin and of the fierceness of God's wrath against it transcending the anguish of a lost soul?
II. JESUS BECAME OBEDIENT UNTO DEATH in that —
1. Death was the objective end of His mission. He came in order to do. It is possible to conceive that Jesus might have assumed our nature without submitting to the law of death. In becoming a man He did not necessarily become mortal, for mortality is not an essential condition of humanity. Adam was human, but he was not created mortal. Mortality, with Him, was a consequence of disobedience; and so Jesus, in becoming human, had He seen fit, might have been exempt from the law of death, or might have passed away by a translation, such as is recorded of Enoch and Elijah, and such as did transpire in His own history after He had risen, to die no more. But neither of these possibilities were consistent with the mission of Jesus. Without dying, His object in coming into the world would have failed of being accomplished. In this respect His death differed from ours; we are not brought into this world simply for the purpose of dying; we die because we cannot help dying. But it behoved Jesus to die. He became obedient unto death. If His object in coming into the world was to save men by the lustre of His living and by the splendour of His philosophy, why need He to have died, and why, especially, need He always have insisted upon the necessity of His death, in order that by dying He might accomplish the object which He had undertaken?
2. By the voluntary surrender of His life. Death, to us, is a surrender to an inevitable, from which we would prefer to be exempt, and at the best in most cases, it is a passive submission to a necessity, but the death of Jesus was Jesus in action.
3. In that His dying was the supreme expression of His submission to the will of the Father. It was the fitting crown of a life whose explanation was "My meat is to do the will," etc.
III. WHY, IN THE ECONOMY OF GOD WAS IT NEEDFUL THAT JESUS SHOULD SUBMIT TO DEATH?
1. Because His subjection to the law of death was the highest, and an exhaustive test of the absolute subordination of His will to the will of His Father.
2. The obedience of Jesus unto death became the exhaustive ground on which God could justly remit the penalty pronounced against the sinner.
3. As the reward of His obedience Jesus was empowered with the prerogative of bestowing the gift of eternal life on all that believe on His name.
(R. Jefferey, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: