Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and they plotted to arrest Jesus in some sly way and kill him. Matthew 26:3-4
In the New Testament we see Satan using five external tactics against the church: rulers, priests, merchants, mobs and families—and of course, these often occurred in combinations. The followers of Jesus tend to unite the enemies of Jesus so that quite unlikely alliances can be created. Jesus himself saw this when the Pharisees and the Herodians—two groups that never spoke to each other—got together to plot his assassination after he healed a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath (Mark 3:6).
It is surprising to some that the rulers are not the biggest persecutors of Christians in the New Testament. That dubious honor falls to the Jewish priestly caste. But there is no doubt that strong opposition came from the rulers. Pontius Pilate was complicit in the death of Jesus; Herod Agrippa killed the apostle James in Jerusalem (Acts 12:2); and of course, Nero initiated a terrible persecution against the Christians of Rome in AD 64—the community most think Mark’s gospel was written to encourage.
Though it was Pilate’s order, it was really the Jewish high priest who pushed Pilate into giving the order for the crucifixion when he was inclined to let Jesus go (see John 18:31), and tried to accomplish this by arranging a crowd clemency scene. All throughout his ministry, Jesus’ bitterest enemies were the priests. And so it proved for the early church. The first flogging of Christians was administered under the auspices of the Sanhedrin (Acts 5:40), and the first martyrdom of a Christian (Stephen) was carried out by enraged clerics (Acts 7:54-59). And so it continued also for Paul, the main character of the early church, ironically a former Pharisee and a witness to the stoning of Stephen.
But it is a sad fact that the class threatened most by radical Christian faith is the clerical class, whether of one’s own religious persuasion or of a rival one. This is not to say all clerics are persecutors. Many Pharisees became followers of Jesus, and some, like Nicodemus and Simon, were the very model of courtesy and open-mindedness. Nevertheless, in the history of the church, other “believers” have perpetrated most violence on Christians.
Satan uses external as well as internal tactics to attack the advance of the Kingdom of God.
Lord, help me show love to other “believers” who do not hear Your voice but are used as tools of the enemy.