But the psalm has much in common especially with our own time. For, according to Bernard, the church’s bitterness under tyrants is bitter, more bitter under heretics, and most bitter now in a time of peace.10 For by the judgment of all the devout and by the testimony of experience the greatest temptation of all is to have no temptation. And the supreme misfortune is to have no misfortune. And God is especially angry at a time when He is not angry, according to the same Bernard. “It is not when I do not feel Thee angry, but when I do feel Thee angry, that I especially trust Thee to be gracious.” Indeed, “when Thou art angry, Thou wilt remember mercy” (Hab. 3:2). And Ps. 60:1: “Thou hast been angry and hast had mercy on us.” Therefore, on the contrary, Thou hast not been angry and hast not had mercy on us. So also 2 Macc. 2:18. The proof of the greatest blessing is not to permit sinners to act on the basis of opinion. Hence the pagan Hannibal, ignorant of the Spirit and wise only after the flesh, surely proved to be such a one in temporal things when he said that a great republic could not stand without an external enemy. How very truly he said this, and how much more this applies to the greatest state, namely, Christ’s! And the poet Ennius said, “The Roman state stands by virtue of its ancient morals and men.”11 So the church’s condition falls because of new morals but stands because of the old ones (that is, because of adversities). And that brother in the lives of the Fathers feared the worst wrath of God when he was not sick for one year. So, then, Christ is “stuck in the mire of the deep, and there is no sure standing.”
And now He is truly holding out for one who will “grieve together with Him, and there is no one” (v. 20). The reason why there is no one is that where there is no adversity, how can there be a grieving together? But no one can grieve with one who is not grieving, although he is just the one with whom one should grieve, just because he is not grieving, or because peace is most bitter to him. Amos 6:4, 6: “You who are wanton on your couches, and are not concerned for the affliction of Joseph.” And in order that we might give and receive an occasion for entering upon a meditation of this kind, Christ today conducts Himself in this way, that the waters come up to His soul, that is, greedy men because of their great number are nearly destroying the church. Similarly the cravings for riches are choking the faith of the souls without measure, from the least to the greatest, as the prophet says (Jer. 8:10).
Luther’s works, vol. 10: First Lectures I