For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever. (Hebrews 07:26-28, NKJV).
For sinners like you and me, it is necessary in the economy of God's redemption to have as our Great High Priest a Man whose essential humanity is of a superlative quality so that in every way He satisfies our desperate need. He must be fitting for us.
As a contrast between what we are and who Christ is, and what He did to save, this passage should fill our hearts with humble gratitude and overwhelming joy. To counteract before the Father our fundamental sinfulness, our Mediator had to be holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners.
He had to be holy, which in this context means free from all wickedness. This is a quality which we can think about but not fully understand, since we are by nature, and inclination, steeped in wickedness. It is the brew from which our fetid aroma arises before Heaven. Everything about our fallen nature, our unregenerate selves, obscures from our view what it means to be wholly free from that which is debased and evil.
The stuff and atmosphere which is our natural sinful habitat, like water to a fish, can only be seen for what it is when we are lifted out from the midst of it. Until then, it is impossible for us to conceive of life lived without our inherent depravity. Unregenerate man is blind to true goodness. In fact, as Paul writes in Romans 3, we are so debased that without the Law handed down from Mount Sinai we would have no conception of what sin is.
This is a perverse twisting of how we were made, a perversion of our nature brought about by the heinous rebellion of our forefather Adam in the garden. So bent are we in this regard that most of us look upon the first human sin as a moral and ethical failure, rather than the holocaust that it really was. In our depthless and specious view, we see Cain's murder of his brother as the first recognizably criminal act, but we could not be further from the truth.
Murder and murderous intent were the natural offspring of Adam's action, less in that they are derivative evil, and not the corruption of human nature itself. It was Adam who was capable of not sinning. It was Adam who, with the potential for wisdom beyond any except for Christ Himself, chose to willfully misuse those incalculable gifts of life and will and intelligence given to Him by God, and who thus destroyed for all his descendants the ability to be good. And the full knowledge of what good is.
So Christ, to free us, had to be our holy High Priest absolutely unsullied from and by wickedness.
Furthermore, as an infinite counterweight to our natural inability to be good, our High Priest also had to be harmless, meaning Jesus must be without guile or fraud, free from guilt, fearing no evil from others, and distrusting no one. Again we can barely imagine such a Person. Whatever shallow picture we might conjure up in our sin-darkened minds can not begin to compare with the radiant fulfillment of these qualities in Christ.
At our natural best, if we are ever any of those things embodied in the word harmless, it is because it serves our own selfish and corrupt purposes, or feeds our malignant and cancerous pride. Even the most apparently innocent among us, young children, are only innocent in regard to their inability to conceive of greater evil due to lack of life experience. In fact, an "innocent" child's true motivation is purely selfish until the mitigating factors of moral instruction and human politics tempers that purity with a kind of ruthless practicality.
Undefiled is the next requirement for our Savior. In order to cleanse us and make us new in Him, Jesus must be unsoiled and free from that by which the nature of a thing is deformed and debased, or by which its force and life-energy are impaired.
Sin is a fatal ailment, robbing the afflicted of everything and anything beneficial. At its most elementary level, it is entirely negative, consuming the gift of life itself and excreting in its place a fundamental defilement that is more toxic and irremediable than any conceivable man-made substance.
Only something, or more precisely, Someone, who is the antithesis of such defilement can cleanse us from it. There are no halfway solutions. No lesser solvent.
And finally, because of the depths to which we have fallen, only Someone completely separate from us, and from our naturally toxic character, can stand on the firm ground necessary to provide us with the means of escape. No sinner could possibly save us. It would be like a man mired in a pit himself trying to lift another man out. Both would merely sink further down.
All these characteristics point us once more to the superiority of our Savior. He is so much more than we can conceive of; so beyond our current ability to comprehend, that it will take an eternity in close fellowship with Him to glimpse His complete reality. And it is only through His immeasurable and eternal superiority that we can hope to have life through His once for all cleansing of our sin when He offered up Himself.
Do you see what all this means?
We can take pride in nothing about ourselves, and can and should boast in every true thing about Him.
Without Him being precisely who He is, in all His magnificent humility and incomparable superiority, we would remain hopelessly doomed to a fate far worse than mere death.
Without Him as our High Priest, without us coming to Him for that cleansing and renewing work that only He can accomplish in us, it would truly be better that we would never have been born.