This Easter Sunday, be inspired by the story of ordinary people whose lives were transformed by encountering Jesus. Discover the power of His resurrection and how it can give you a fresh start, new purpose, and hope for the future.

Today is the most important Sunday of the year, when we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.

We’re so glad you decided to join us today.

In the next few moments I just want to explain why the resurrection is so important and then give you a chance to express commitment to this Jesus in what could be an unforgettable moment for you.


People will often greet each other by saying, “What’s new? What are you excited about? What’s changing in your life?”

And we love it when we have something exciting to say.


We have a staff member who has three boys under the age of four — a four-year-old, a two-year-old and a one-year-old.

Their oldest is Gunner (gold), second is Sterling (silver), and third is Bronson (bronze).

Maybe God will give them a streak of girls next that they can name Platinum, Diamond and Emerald.

For Jordan, what’s new is a growing family: diapers, nap schedules, and the chaos of three boys who are not in school yet.

When they had that third child, that meant they had to switch from a man-to-man to a zone defense.

If you ask Jordan, “What’s new?” he might hug you, he might hit you, he might laugh, and he might cry, but he probably has a real exciting answer.


If you ask a bored, cynical person, “What’s new?” what will they say? “Nothing. Same old, same old.”

That’s actually kind of an ancient worldview.

The writer of Scripture in the book of Ecclesiastes expresses how life looks apart from God.

All things are wearisome, more than one can say. What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:8-9)

There was once a group of 12 very ordinary people, fishermen and tax collectors. If you asked them, “What’s new?” the answer would have been pretty much, “Nothing. Same old, same old.”

Until one day, out of the blue, a man named Jesus called them to follow him, and for three years, every time anyone would have asked them, “What’s new?” they would have had the same answer — “Jesus. You can’t believe this guy.”

Every day — “Jesus did this or said that or went there. He touched a leper. He cleared the temple. He healed a blind man. He partied with some tax collectors. He prayed with a prostitute. He cursed a fig tree, calmed the storm, walked on water.”

For three years, any day anyone asked, “What’s new?” their answer would have been, “It’s Jesus.”


Until one day, Friday — “What’s new?”

“They killed him. It’s all over. He’s dead.”


And the next day, Saturday — “What’s new?”


For the first time since they met Jesus, nothing is new under the sun. Same old, same old.


Then the next day, Sunday — “What’s new?”

“Everything. The tomb is empty. Jesus is alive. Death is defeated. Sin is forgiven. Hope wins. Hell loses. What’s new? Christ is risen. He is risen indeed.”


Here’s the thing. It wasn’t just him. It’s like a little bit of that resurrection power got into his followers. It’s like his new life gave them new life.


About seven weeks later came what was called the day of Pentecost.

We’re told:

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. (Acts 2:5)

This was a big deal. This was a huge holiday. Everyone would have been crowded into the city. No one would have gotten any work done. It was kind of like spring break in San Diego.

We’re told:

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd. (Acts 2:14)

This is an amazing moment. When Jesus had been arrested a few weeks earlier, the disciples scattered like little scared children. They hid.

Peter not only did that; he actually denied that he followed or even knew Jesus — not once but three times.

Now, less than two months later, they’re in the very same city with the same mob that killed Jesus, and this same Peter is risking his life.

What’s changed? What’s new?


Well, Peter is going to tell them.

Listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. (Act 2:22)

The crowd all thinks, “Yeah, I heard him teach. I saw him heal. I watched him lead.” Peter goes on:

This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. (Acts 2:23)

Again, this is a terribly public event. Everyone has heard about this. Many people in the crowd were there.

By the way, what amazing courage for Peter to stand up and say to them, “And you put him to death. You all did this, with the help of wicked men — the Roman soldiers,” and they’re standing there too.

Peter goes on.

But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. (Acts 2:24; 32)

The resurrection is the most important thing that ever happened.


One of the unique aspects of Christianity is that you can know exactly what day it started on. It has a definite starting point.

This is not true for Judaism or Buddhism or Islam or any other religion or philosophy as far as I know.

Christianity started in one place on one day at one moment with one man.

On Saturday it didn’t exist; on Sunday it did exist. What was new?

See, Christianity did not arise from wonderful ethical teachings.
It did not evolve from a meaningful philosophy of life.
It was not the result of wishful thinking.
It was not born out of a mistaken autopsy report.

The disciples were real clear on what happened to Jesus.


Warren Wiersbe wrote a column for Christianity Today years ago.

Somebody asked him:

Our preacher said on Easter Jesus just swooned on the cross and the disciples nurtured him back to health. What do you think?


He wrote back:

Dear Bewildered,

Beat your preacher with a cat-o’-nine-tails with 39 heavy strokes, nail him to a cross, hang him in the sun for three hours, run a spear through his heart, embalm him, put him in an airless tomb for 36 hours, and see what happens.


People sometimes think that in a pre-scientific era the disciples missed Jesus so much they experienced his presence in some kind of a mystical way.

They felt like his spirit was somehow still with them, so these stories of an empty tomb developed over the years as a kind of legend or myth that symbolized higher truths about our need for hope and so on.

The problem with that line is no one signs up for suffering, persecution, and martyrdom (which the disciples all did as a matter of historical record) in the service of a myth they know to be false.


This emphasis on the resurrection accounts being eyewitness testimony and not poetic metaphor runs all through the New Testament.

I’ll give you just one little example, but there are dozens.

When Jesus is carrying the cross, Mark tells us in his gospel:

A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross.

Why would Mark list those names in the middle of his gospel?


It’s for only one reason.

One of his sources would have been this man Simon, Simon from Cyrene.

When the gospel was written, Simon’s sons, Alexander and Rufus, were still alive and you could go ask them.


In ancient eyewitness literature like this, names are given.

They kind of play the role that footnotes do in modern literature to a document.

In other words, he is risen is not a statement of vague hope, whatever you think about it. It is and was clearly understood to be a claim about reality.

That’s why Peter is quite explicit.

He says:

God raised this Jesus to life, and we are [Not sharers of a mystic feeling. Not tellers of an ancient legend. We are] witnesses of this fact. (Acts 2:32)

Peter explains this in the face of great danger, for which he would be imprisoned and eventually killed, a few weeks after and a few blocks away from the precise spot where Jesus was killed… and he ran away in denial.

We’re told:

When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37)

Now “cut to the heart” is what you feel when you suddenly realize you’ve missed the greatest opportunity of your whole life.


I had dinner with someone from Blue Oaks recently who lives in Pleasanton. He and his wife have lived in Pleasanton for quite a few decades.

He told me they bought their house as a young couple in Pleasanton for under a hundred thousand dollars. Last year their property tax was about a thousand dollars. He was so happy and so grateful and so filled with joy.

I said to him, “I don’t care. I don’t want to hear about it.”

I was cut to the heart, because my first house was in Arizona.

You can still get a house for under a hundred thousand dollars in Arizona. Because after you get it you have to live in Arizona.


The crowd realized that to know and love and follow this man Jesus is the greatest opportunity ever offered any human being, and it remains that to this day.

They had missed it, and they were just throwing their life away on money or success or reputation or health or security or comfort or reputation or whatever stupid thing it is we’re all tempted to just drift into giving our lives to.

In a moment of clarity, of moral sanity, they’re cut to the heart. “Is there nothing we can do? Is it too late for us?”

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ [in his power, in his love, in his presence] for the forgiveness of your sins.” (Acts 2:38)

The word repentance comes from two words. One of them is “meta,” which means “after” and then “noya,” which has to do with the mind. Repentance has to do with a new way of thinking.

Metanoya — repent — change your mind — renew your mind.

And it’s not just a onetime deal. It’s a process that we’re in for the rest of our lives.
It’s a process we’re in whether you decided to follow Jesus two weeks ago, two years ago or twenty years ago.


Repent means, “I realize and confess I can’t manage my life. I can’t handle my will. I can’t clean up my act. I can’t stand before a holy God on my own merit. I’m kind of a mess.”


When I was in college I was a food server at Chili’s restaurant.

One night I was serving an older couple. She ordered the BBQ ribs.

Her husband told me about how it was her favorite meal, and how they don’t eat out very often so this was a special occasion.

Now to preface the next part — the rack of ribs was huge and barely fit on the plate. Half of the ribs were hanging off the plate and they were dripping with BBQ sauce.


As I went to serve the plate to this women, the ribs started to fall off the plate. And everything went into slow motion.

I saw the ribs falling but I couldn’t do anything to catch them.

My instinct was to pull the plate away which made the ribs land on the table right in front of the woman, which I was relieved about… until I realized the BBQ sauce splashed onto her white blouse.

Later we found out it splashed on her blouse, her skirt and even got on her shoes somehow.


Now here’s the deal: She was stained. She was stained all over. We couldn’t pretend not to notice it. We couldn’t hide it. We couldn’t rinse it off. We couldn’t cover it up. It was just there. None of us in the restaurant could remove the stain.


One of the primary ways the writers of Scripture talk about God’s offer of salvation, of forgiveness and new life, is the image of cleansing.

And it starts with this truth — I am stained in my soul, in my heart… and so are you.

That’s the truth about us.


This is so important.

Every time I gossip.
Every time I deceive another person.
Every time I cheat on an expense account or my taxes.
Every time I’m involved in selfish behavior.
Every time I use words to hurt someone.

That’s another stain and another stain and another one. And I cannot remove the guilt, the stain, by myself.


Here’s another real important point — everyone is stained. You are stained. I am stained.


And then, of course, the question is, “How do you get the stain out? What’s God’s opinion of that stain?”


Some people have this idea that God keeps a list of the good things and the bad things I do. As long as the good things outweigh the bad things then I’m probably okay.

People just get funny ideas about this sort of thing.

Everyone is aware of the fact that there are bad things that happen in this world and that I have done some bad things. But a lot of people kind of hope that God more or less grades on the curve.

The hope is that the passing grade is a little below whatever my grade happens to be.

Everyone is aware of the fact that there are bad people, but no one thinks they fit in that category —

“I know there are people who score way higher than me, but I think my score is probably a reasonable score for human beings and, you know, the curve will be set somewhere beneath that. As long as I’ve got more good than bad.”

Well, the writers of Scripture are very clear on this. God’s standard for human beings is not 51 percent good and 49 percent bad. That’s not God’s plan.

God is a holy and just God and his plan is that human beings, you and me, and the world in which we live, should experience life as he made it to be — sheer goodness, sheer truth, sheer love, sheer mercy.

His plan is not for us just to barely tip the scales. It’s absolute goodness.

And we’re stained, you and I. We have sinned and fall short, and we can not cleanse that stain by ourselves.


There’s a statement about this in Jeremiah 2:22. God speaks to the prophet and he talks about the fact that we’re stained.

“Although you wash yourself with soap and use an abundance of cleansing powder, the stain of your guilt is still before me,” declares the Lord God.

So I’m stained, I’m guilty, I can’t remove it myself.

God’s standard is purity, perfection. So what am I going to do?

Well, God has made a way.

This now gets right to the heart of salvation by grace.

God sent his son, Jesus Christ, to live and to teach us on earth.

Jesus lived without sin, showed us what life could be, and then Jesus went to the cross and he died on the cross.

The writers of scripture say when that happened, Jesus, in a sense, was paying a penalty that you can’t pay.


The apostle Paul said in Romans 6:23:

For the wages of sin is death.

My life was headed toward death apart from God’s help and so was yours.

But Jesus died the death that I should have died — and he did it for you too.

And in doing that he was paying the penalty to God that I could never pay, paying the moral indebtedness that I would never be able to pay off — you either — and offering us the opportunity to be cleansed.


This is the way the writers of scripture talk about that. In 1 John 1:7, in the New Testament, John says:

And the blood of Jesus, his son, cleanses us from all sin.

You can be clean — not on the basis of your good works, not because of what you do, not because you’ve earned it, not because of how much money you give.

You can be clean no matter how badly you’re stained, no matter what it is that you’ve done in the past… however awful that may seem to you.

The blood of Jesus is wholly adequate to cleanse you and me from sin.

This is the heart of Christianity.


How does God handle the stain factor?

Through the cross, through the shed blood of his son. It’s that simple.


So to repent means to say, “I have a sin-stained soul, and I can’t clean it up myself.”

There’s a humility to this.

“But I don’t have to.”

There’s grace to this.

“I am trusting Jesus to be my forgiver and my leader and my friend. I’m surrendering my will over to him now, and I commit my life, my purpose, my death, my destiny, to this risen man, Jesus Christ.”


It was happening all the time in the ancient world.

Paul said:

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

That’s the good news. This is true for anyone.


And the expression of this commitment on that very first day was baptism.

Baptism is an outward expression of an inward reality.

It involves water, because even physically water is what we use to cleanse stuff.

We need cleansing, and we know it.


Peter said at the end of his sermon, “If you believe this, then I want to challenge you. You commit your life to this man Jesus, you repent, and get baptized.”

And people did it right on that day.

Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. (Acts 2:41)

You notice they began their commitment with immediate obedience to what Jesus had said.

They didn’t say, “I’ll do the baptism thing someday when I get around to it.”

They didn’t say, “I’ll schedule it when it’s convenient or when I feel like doing it or after I take a class.”

They said, “I can’t wait. No more putting this off. I have to start now.”


So I want to end this sermon the same way Peter ended his sermon. I want to give you the chance to make a commitment to Jesus and then get baptized.

Some of you are thinking, “You mean I could sign up for baptism today.” No. I mean get baptized today.

Some of you are thinking, “Don’t I have to take a class before getting baptized?”

No, actually you just took it. This is the class Peter offered for the very first time. That was the message.

Some of you are thinking, “You know, I’m a person of faith and I believe and all that, but my faith is a very private thing. I’m not going to embarrass myself by doing something in front of all of these people in public.”

Well, I want to tell you baptism is a way of going public with your ultimate commitment, and it’s a really important step to take.


Imagine if when I got engaged to my wife Kathy I said, “Yes, I will commit to you. I’ll do that, but let’s just make it a private deal between you and me. I don’t want to have to do it publicly in a ceremony with a bunch of people watching, where I have to wear a ring and everyone would know I married you. That would be embarrassing.”

If I had said that, I guarantee you we would not be married today.


I can’t imagine facing Jesus someday and saying, “You know, I believe in you. I claim your forgiveness on the cross. I expect to have eternity with you in the afterlife, but when it comes to the very first step of obedience you demand, baptism, I think I’ll take a pass. No thanks.”

I can’t imagine doing that.

Some people make baptism into an issue of denomination or church tradition rather than just a command in the Bible.


You may be thinking, “I don’t know about getting baptized here. I’m not sure I want to be a member of this church.”

Well, we’re not sure we want you to be a member of this church.

This is not about church membership. That’s a different thing.

This is about putting a stake in the ground. This is about going public in front of the whole world and saying, “I have decided to follow this man Jesus, and I don’t care who knows. Actually, I’d like everyone to know.”

I’m telling you, something happens inside you, inside your spirit, when you go public.

And we’re actually going to see what that looks like right now.

Blue Oaks Church
Pleasanton, CA