Feeding The Five Thousand

Resources Needed:

  • Enough small loaves of bread for one per table, ideally unsliced. Make sure each table has a loaf at the start of the talk.
  • Paper and pens
  • Activity instructions (In red below) on a Powerpoint or printed for each table.


John 6:1-15


There are times when we read the bible, or when we read a passage here on a Sunday that we come across a story like the one we’ve just read and treat it kind of like you would a short story in a book of short stories. There are characters that we are familiar with but there is an obvious beginning, a middle and an end so we read the story as if it stands on its own.

But sometimes that isn’t what the writer had in mind.

Today’s passage sits in the middle of a bit of John’s gospel that talks a lot about bread. We heard in the reading that the Passover was approaching, a time when the Jewish people would break bread together and, in fact, when Jesus would share bread at the last supper with his disciples. Then there is one of Jesus most famous sayings, just a few verses later in the same chapter that we just read from: “I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me will never grow hungry”.

So with that in mind let’s take a look through the story that we heard this morning and see what we can learn from it – we’ll start with a question:

How many of you like bread?

Bread is one of the most popular items in our supermarkets today but as popular as it is bread is just one of many options; for the crowd who had followed Jesus that day bread was a key part of their diet, the thing that they depended on, that sustained them. It was an essential not an optional extra.

  • What are the most essential things in life to you? What couldn’t you live without?
  • On a sheet of paper write “I am the _______ of life” and fill in what you think would go in the blank if Jesus were talking to you today. If you feel comfortable to, explain your choice to the others on your table.

Get some feedback from the tables.

When Jesus fed all of these people he was meeting a physical need; these were people who had no food with them – they were hungry, but John the author of the book, is also trying to bring home a spiritual point: Jesus the one you should hunger for, Jesus the one that can sustain you. It is a challenge to the people to believe in him and they do – by the end of the passage they want to make him king!

Here is the question for us: Is Jesus that essential to us? Is he the thing that we hunger for? Is he the thing that sustains us? Hold on to that thought.

In the passage we meet a boy and it looks like he is the only one who had remembered to bring lunch. I’m not sure what you think that you’d have done if you were the only person to have remembered to bring lunch and there were 5000 hungry people looking for something to eat but I’d probably have found somewhere quiet to eat my food before anyone noticed. The boy in this story however does something different – he shares his food with the disciples.

How much are we like the boy? We live in a world where people are hungry for something that we have, desperate for something that can satisfy and sustain them like Jesus promises to. Are we willing to share him with others or do we keep him to ourselves.

  • If you’d like to then take a couple of minutes to share a piece of bread with each other around your table – not serving yourself but making sure everyone who wants to has eaten some. You might want to use the words “receive the bread of life” or similar as a reminder that we are called to share what we have.

Sometimes though it doesn’t seem like what we have to offer is all that great. Take a look at the rest of the bread on your table – how far would it go toward relieving world hunger? The answer is probably not far at all. Sometimes we can feel the same about sharing Jesus, the bread of life, with others. The world can be a dark, scary place and the little faith that we do have can seem like not very much.

The good news is that Jesus doesn’t expect us to fix it ourselves, we simply have to bring the little faith that we have to Jesus and trust him to take it and to multiply it to reach more people than we could ever imagine.

  • If you have a smartphone or a camera phone then take it out and take a picture of the remainder of the bread on your table (or the crumbs if there is none left!).
  • Set that picture as the background on your phone (ask someone for help if you’re not sure how to do this) and leave it as your background for a few days as a reminder that
    1. We have someone in Jesus, the bread of life, who can sustain us and provide for all of our needs if only we make him the one that we depend on.
    2. What he has given to us is to be shared with others not kept to ourselves
    3. Even if we feel we don’t have much to offer we simply need to offer him the little we have and trust him to use it.