Did the disciples really see a risen Jesus?

We have already determined that the disciples’ claim that Jesus rose from the grave isn’t a myth, so if they really made this claim what are the possibilities? There are two basic explanations to this, either they really saw Jesus three days after His death, or they didn’t. So, what if they didn’t really see a risen Jesus. Again there are two possible explanations, either they were lying or they thought they saw Him but really didn’t. Is it possible that the disciples were lying?
To determine if they were lying we must ask “why do people lie?” The reasons for lying are basically this, to avoid something bad for yourself or someone else. Or to get something good for yourself or someone else. What would be the reason for their lying, or as Dr. Phil would say “what are they getting out of it?” Let’s look at the fates of the disciples. The only one recorded in the bible is James, son of Zebedee. Acts 12:1-2 says

About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church.  He killed James the brother of John with the sword,

Killing him with the sword probably means that he was beheaded. For the rest, not a-lot was recorded but we do have varying degrees of information. Simon, who Jesus named Peter was crucified, apparently upside-down at his own request, because he didn’t feel worthy to die the same way Jesus did. His brother Andrew was also crucified, tradition has him being crucified in a spread eagle position. Simon the Zealot may also have been crucified, either that or he was hacked to death. Bartholomew, also known as Nathaniel, was skinned alive then beheaded. Thomas (doubting Thomas) was speared to death. Paul, or Saul although not one of the disciples did claim to see a risen Jesus along the road to Damascus. He too was killed for his testimony getting beheaded. All the rest of the disciples we know were killed for their testimonies with the exception of John. He was boiled in oil, and when that didn’t kill him he was banished to Patmos, an island in the Mediterranean. All were imprisoned and some tortured before being executed. As you can see, they didn’t get any good out of it, and if they were trying to avoid something bad it wasn’t working very well! All it would take to avoid their fate would be to say “Ok I admit it’s all a hoax we made it all up”. If just one of them had, not only would they not have been killed but they would have been paraded around by the Roman and Jewish authorities to tell everyone about the hoax. Christianity would have been discredited before it got started. But not one did. And when you consider that in most scandals someone usually changes their story just to avoid going to jail yet they all kept their testimony and were willing to die for it. Nobody is willing to die for a known lie. Another thing to consider is that before Jesus’ resurrection these men were all cowards. They were all hiding after His crucifixion afraid that they would be next. When asked, Peter denied even knowing Jesus. Yet later they all were willing to die for Him and considered it an honor. Something changed them!
The disciples obviously weren't lying and at least believed that they saw Jesus risen. Could they have been mistaken? If they saw someone who looked like Jesus, they would have rushed to greet him and found their mistake. It couldn’t have been someone playing a hoax on them saying they were Jesus, that person would have been arrested and killed. Is it possible that under all the duress of seeing their friend killed and the fear that they would be next, that they imagined that they saw Him, like an hallucination or delusion?
People under duress, especially without much sleep can start to hallucinate. The problem with this is even when a group of people are going through the same stressful situations and start hallucinating at the same time, the hallucinations are individual occurrences not group. This has been demonstrated in navy SEAL training when recruits go through “hell week”, a week of forced marches, sleep deprivation, extremes in temperature and grueling exercises. By the end of the week, most if not all in the group are experiencing hallucinations but they are all different. And the disciples all said they saw the same thing, so it couldn’t have been hallucinations.

Could it have been delusions, could the disciples have drowned their sorrows in wine and convinced themselves they saw Jesus? Anyone who has gotten drunk and imagined something or knows someone who has, knows that once the hangover wears off reality sets in and they realize it wasn’t real. And even if they still believed it, all they or anyone else had to do was look in the tomb for the body. No other possibility other than a hoax can explain the empty tomb and a hoax has already been ruled out as a possible explanation. Logically we can conclude that the disciples weren’t lying or mistaken, so they must have actually seen Jesus three days after His crucifixion. Did He really die and rise from the grave or was there a mistake? I’ll cover that in my next message.

The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 . Standard Bible Society: Wheaton