I turn today to an extract from David Ford's Self and Salvation.
One obvious feature of the four New Testament stories of the institution of the eucharist is that imperatives run through them. Matthew has: 'Take, eat' (26.26), 'Drink' (26.27). Mark has: 'Take' (14.22). Luke has: 'Take ... divide' (22.17), 'Do this' (22.19). Paul has: 'Do this' (1 Cor. 11.24), 'Do this' (11.25). Whatever notion of transformation is found through the eucharist but be linked to command and obedience ... The primacy of confrontational yet welcoming presence is clear in all the sources and all the more important to emphasise because of the power of the incorporative thrust. The story is one who while facing his disciples commands a practice which will be continued in face to face meals and looks towards the ultimate confrontation when 'he comes' (1. Cor 11.26) or 'it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God' (Luke 22.16). The primary locus of transformation is in community with him in his irreducible otherness and in following his instruction.
This is intensified by the reference in all four sources to the covenant, with Matthew and Mark referring especially to Exodus 24, the 'blood of the covenant' ratifying the agreement of the people to obey what Moses had received on Sinai. The references to 'new covenant' in Luke and Paul evoke Jeremiah's vision of a new sort of obedience: 'I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God and they shall be my people' (Jer. 31.33). What is most distinctive in this improvising on the covenant theme? It is the self-reference of Jesus: 'my body', 'my blood', 'in remembrance of me'. The obedience is tied inextricably to himself. There is a transformation of covenantal obedience, of the bonds that tie a people to God and each other. What is the nature of the change? The heart of it is to do with the way the person and message of Jesus are related. Jesus comes preaching and enacting the Kingdom of God It is seen as obedience to the Father, pleasing his Father. In the pivotal synoptic story of the transfiguration there is a complex, condensed message. It interweaves Moses and Elijah, resonances of Sinai, and a divine affirmation of Jesus as both pleasing God and to be obeyed. But there is also the focus on his person, his radiance. Message and person converge, and Mark, Matthew and John the stories of the woman anointing Jesus carry this further in their focus on his body and death. The Last Supper is where this knot is decisively tied. It looks to the culmination of Jesus's obedience in death and commands a sharing in his body and blood.
How does this affect the practice of obedience? It gives particular face to the law. It makes communion with him the embracing commandment. There is an astonishing scandal of particularity, as the remembering of this person through this event becomes the context of one's vocation and the bond of one's community ...
The Last Supper was a meal in the face of death. It was a situation of radical contingency in which complex forces and people converged on a climax in which participants could not know in advance how they would react. All were to be tested, Jesus above all. Of course the church's later remembering was of the continuation in crucifixion and resurrection, but it is extremely dangerous for the actual situation of the Last Supper to be forgotten ... The remembering is false if it is not connected with entering more fully into the contingencies and tragic potentialities of life in the face evil and death. There can be no quick leap across Gethsemane and Calvary. Here are massive dislocation and disorientation, agonising loss and the demand to unlearn some of one's deepest convictions and habits. It is therefore very serious if contemporary celebration of the eucharist dulls instead of sharpening the sense both of exposure to danger and of a God whose way of being God is to be involved in the contingencies in a shocking complete and painful way.
David F. Ford, Self and Salvation: Being Transformed (Cambridge, 1999), pp.145-147.