Jesus Feeds 5000 Bible Story Study Guide

This miracle revealed Jesus as the 'Bread of Life'

Jesus Feeds 5,000.
The Feeding of the Five Thousand by William Hole (1846-1917).

Culture Club / Contributor / Getty Images

All four Gospels record an event in which Jesus Christ feeds 5,000 people from a few loaves and fish. This miraculous provision of food reveals the Lord as the source of life, or "bread of life," for Jews and Gentiles alike.

Questions for Reflection

Jesus' disciples were focused on the problem of how to feed so many, rather than focusing on God. When we are confronted with an unsolvable situation, do we remember that "nothing is impossible with God" (Luke 1:37, NIV)? Philip and Andrew seemed to have forgotten all the miracles Jesus had performed before. When you face a crisis in your life, do you recall how God helped you in the past?

Scripture References

The story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 is found in Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; and John 6:1-15.

Jesus Feeds 5000 Story Summary

While going about his ministry, Jesus Christ received some terrible news. John the Baptist, his friend, kinsman, and the prophet who proclaimed him as the Messiah, had been beheaded by Herod Antipas, ruler of Galilee and Perea.

Jesus' 12 disciples had just returned from a missionary journey he had sent them on. After they told him all they had done and taught, he took them with him in a boat on the Sea of Galilee to a remote place, for rest and prayer.

Great crowds of people in the area heard that Jesus was near. They ran to see him, bringing their sick friends and relatives. When the boat landed, Jesus saw all the men, women and children and had compassion on them. He taught them about the Kingdom of God and healed those who were sick.

Looking at the crowd, which numbered about 5,000 men, not counting women and children, Jesus asked his disciple Philip, "Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?" (John 6:5, NIV) Jesus knew what he was going to do, but he asked Philip to test him. Philip replied that even eight months' wages would not be enough to give each person even one bite of bread.

Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, had more faith in Jesus. He brought forward a young boy who had five small loaves of barley bread and two small fish. Even so, Andrew wondered how that could help.

Jesus ordered the crowd to sit down in groups of fifty. He took the five loaves, looked up to heaven, gave thanks to God his Father, and passed them to his disciples to be distributed. He did the same with the two fish.

Everyone—men, women and children—ate as much as they wanted! Jesus miraculously multiplied the loaves and fishes so there was more than enough. Then he told his disciples to gather the leftovers so nothing was wasted. They collected enough to fill 12 baskets.

The crowd was so overwhelmed by this miracle that they understood Jesus was the prophet who had been promised. Knowing they would want to force him to become their king, Jesus fled from them.

Themes and Lessons

The Good Shepherd: The compassion of Jesus is a strong theme in this story. Jesus cared for the multitudeses who were "like sheep without a shepherd." Jesus was tired and his disciples were too. But his compassion for their needs was greater than his exhaustion. Jesus is the true Good Shepherd of God.

The Promised Messiah: The feeding of 5000—providing bread for Israel in the wilderness—is reminiscent of God’s supernatural feeding of the Israelites with manna in the wilderness in the days of Moses. Jewish tradition had come to expect the Messiah to repeat this miracle of provision. Jesus was revealing himself as the spiritual redeemer of Israel and all who would accept him.

The Gracious Provider: Jesus, recognizing the people's need for food, set about teaching his disciples an important lesson. In the household of faith, God is a constant and abundant provider of all our needs. Only he can satisfy our true hunger.

Points of Interest

  • This miracle when Jesus feeds 5000 is the only one recorded in all four Gospels, with each account containing only slight differences in details. It is a separate incident from the feeding of the 4,000.
  • Only the men were counted in this story. When the women and children were added, the crowd probably numbered 10,000 to 20,000.
  • The people were as "lost" as their ancestors who wandered in the desert during the Exodus, when God provided manna to feed them. Jesus was superior to Moses because he not only provided physical food but also spiritual food, as the "bread of life."
  • The 12 baskets of leftovers may symbolize the 12 tribes of Israel. They also tell us that God is not only a generous provider, but that he has unlimited resources.
  • This miraculous feeding of the multitude was another sign that Jesus was the Messiah. However, the people did not understand that he was a spiritual king and wanted to force him to be a military leader who would overthrow the Romans. This is the reason Jesus fled from them.