Jesus had prepared His apostles prior to His Ascension. He told them two major ways to connect to Him, and with Him: Abiding in His love to receive life from Him and keeping His commandment to receive the Father's love. Further, on several occasions, Jesus opened the eyes of His disciples. He opened the eyes of Mary of Magdala. She met Him near the tomb, and thought He was a gardener. Jesus called her name and she recognized Him (Jn 20,16). He opened the eyes of two of His disciples, who were on the way to Emmaus. Seeing Jesus hold the bread and say the blessing when He broke it and gave it to them, 'their eyes were opened and they recognized Him... They said to each other, 'Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us? Lk 24:30-32.
He then opened Thomas's eyes. Instead of touching his eyes, Jesus asked Thomas to touch the wounds on His hands, and his eye of faith opened. On the outskirts of Bethany, Jesus was taken up into heaven. The text gives no hints, however I would have no doubt that Jesus' apostles all would have their eyes wide open, glued to Jesus' figure lifting up on high. They were speechless seeing Jesus' figure become smaller, and smaller, and finally disappear into the blue sky.
From that day onwards, Jesus' apostles had imprinted His living image in their hearts. That image opened their eyes of faith and would accompany them into their mission field. They missed the man Jesus, but in their heart, they would always have Him as their Lord and God. They now began what Jesus had commissioned them to do: Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation'. v.15. Their view of the world would not as large as we now know. It would not take them long to bring the Good News to the Gentiles.
St Mark told us, Jesus' apostles joyfully preached everywhere. In proclaiming the Good News, they always remembered what Jesus had told them, that they would have both friends and enemies. In His name they would cast out devils, and have the gift of tongues, and cure the sick. Their enemies would make use of snakes and poison to cause them physical harm and interrupt their work. Placed into the context of John's preaching then, snakes and poison referred to people rather than serpents. 'Brood of vipers, how can your speech be good when you are evil? For a man's words flow out of what fills his heart'. Mat 12,34.
Snakes and poison in this context refer to people's hearts. Jesus' disciples were given the gift of tongues to counter the 'viper-tongue' who would strongly reject, and condemn their preaching. The apostles were given the gift of laying their hands on people, not to cause harm, but to give comfort and to heal the sick, and that was the sign of God confirming they were true Jesus' disciples. The apostles were given the gift of eye opening to see the work of the Advocate working in them, and to see God's goodness in others, and avoid harmful situations. Jesus' Ascension means He is no more confined in a specific place. We don't see Him but He is present everywhere, always by the side of His disciples. Jesus had perfected what the Father sent Him to do. He passed on the same mission to us. We are not alone in our mission if we abide in Him, and obey His gift, the Advocate, Whom He would send to be with us.