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After His resurrection and before His ascension, Jesus gave this mandate to His disciples:
“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
Why did Jesus ascend to heaven 40 days after His resurrection? The ascension completed His sacrifice of himself on the cross for the salvation of the world. In the Old Testament Jewish tradition, the offering of a sacrificial lamb for the sins of the people involved first killing it and then burning it. The smoke from the sacrifice ascending into the heavens was a sign that God accepted the sacrifice and the salvation of the people was assured. Jesus, the sacrificial lamb, himself ascended into heaven and was received by the Father, who seated Him at His right hand and “…far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion,
and every name that is named
not only in this age but also in the one to come.
And he put all things beneath his feet
and gave him as head over all things to the church,
which is his body,
the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way. -Eph. 1:23
We, who follow Jesus, were baptized into the very life of God. We are Christ’s presence today in our world and in the Church. We carry on the mission of Jesus in and through our lives. Thus, we are assured of our own ascension to the right hand of the Father.