After the resurrection of Jesus that defeats the power of death and Hell, Jesus appears for forty days to his followers. He proves that He is indeed alive and reunites with them in fellowship. St. Paul tells us that in that time, Jesus appeared to more than five hundred men, revealing the glory of the resurrection. After all of these appearances, Jesus gave his disciples final instructions for what becomes the Church (His Body) before He ascended into heaven to intercede for all who enter into His life.
The Ascension is an often overlooked action of Jesus, but it is an essential event in time because it allows for the Body of Christ to be present on earth after Jesus ascends. When He ascends, Jesus brings humanity into heaven which had not been in heaven to this point, for no one could ascend to heaven except the one who had come down from heaven (John 3:13) The incarnate Word of God who had accomplished the will of the Father, personally offers the sacrifice of His Body and Blood in His passion to His Father in heaven. With this sacrifice, Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father, interceding for us (Romans 8:34). It is fitting that we should have such a High priest (Hebrews 7:26) that He is able to save those who approach God through him since He lives forever to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:25). It is through this intercession that the Holy Spirit can be poured upon us. Jesus, true God and true man, seated on His heavenly throne as the first fruits of resurrected life, sends the Holy Spirit upon those who belong to Him. He does this in union with His Father. All of those who belong to Him (1 Cor 15:23) become His Body and receive His life. Thus in the Ascension, Jesus the head of His Body intercedes, aids, and directs His hands and feet on earth, His believers who have entered into His life through faith. This means that the Body of Christ is no longer confined to one specific place in one specific time period, but can spread out through all the world until all his enemies are placed under His feet (Psalm 110:1).
Jesus instructed the Apostles to carry out His mission as His Body and go and make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:19) as He ascended into heaven. Before they could carry out His instructions, the Apostles needed to ask for the Holy Spirit. For nine days they prepared, praying in the upper room until their prayer was answered at Pentecost.
We often highlight the importance of Pentecost and rightfully so for it is the Spirit who gives life (John 6:63). But the importance of the Ascension cannot be overstated. The fact that humanity’s flesh and blood was able to enter the heavenly realm has given us hope beyond all measure. We are God’s children now, but what we will be when we can enter heaven with glorified bodies has not yet been revealed (1 John 3:2). But we do know that there will be a new level of intimacy between us and God. We will be in His presence without fear (Luke 1:73), one with the Father as Jesus prayed for at the Last Supper. In the Ascension, God has answered that prayer, and as Christians we await the day when we join in our Father’s glory with both Body and Soul.