Jesus was not mean, but he could be very, very tough. He sometimes used very strong language when speaking to people he regarded as hypocrites. In a withering excoriation of religious hypocrisy in Matthew 23, he compared the scribes and Pharisees to whitewashed tombs, which is a worse insult than it sounds because the religious leaders prided themselves on their outward righteousness. He could be tough on his own followers also. In Mark 8:14-21 he tells his disciples that they are spiritually blind and have hard hearts. When he appeared to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, he calls them "foolish ones" and "slow of heart to believe" (Luke 24:25). He told certain Jewish leaders in John 8:44, "You are of your father the devil." The notion that our Lord was always "gentle Jesus, meek and mild," as if he spent his days saying nice things to make people feel better is only possible if you never read the gospels.
He was gentle and meek and mild and kind. But that's not the whole story. He also demanded that his followers commit themselves to him wholeheartedly. He had no patience for hypocrites who took advantage of others while ignoring their own sin.
Say what you want about Jesus, but don't forget that he took a whip and overturned the tables of the moneychangers, driving them out of temple precincts because they had made a house of prayer into a den of robbers.
Jesus could be very, very tough.
But was he mean? The answer may rest in the eye of the beholder. Perhaps some of the Pharisees and those moneychangers whose tables he overturned thought he was mean. After all, it was precisely because of his righteousness that they plotted to put him to death. His zeal for God aroused envy that turned to murderous hatred.
Excerpted from "Was Jesus Christ Mean?" by Keep Believing Ministries (used by permission).