Use this lesson to teach elementary students about Jesus feeding 5,000 with only five loaves of bread and two fish.
Editor’s Note: This lesson was adapted from Tru Curriculum, TruStory 5th-6th grade.
Jesus Feeds 5,000 Bible Background
“After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.” John 6:14–15
Jesus’ miracle of feeding more than five thousand men, women, and children was a sign to the Jewish people that the Messiah had come.
The miracle might have reminded them of God feeding His people through Moses and Elijah (in the wilderness and during famine) in Exodus 16 and 2 Kings 4.
Because of this connection, they may have been thinking about the prophetic promise in Deuteronomy 18:18, which reads, “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him.”
Jesus is the Word incarnate, but the people weren’t ready to receive Him (John 1:10–11). Those who acknowledged Jesus was the Messiah also thought He would be a political figure.
Because of this, they instantly wanted to make Jesus their king. Though they seemed to understand who Jesus was—the Messiah—the people did not fully understand what that meant.
So Jesus had no choice but to retreat from them while they sought to “make him king by force” (John 6:15).
Even so, Jesus continued to teach them about Himself, God’s kingdom, and His purpose on earth. He continued to have compassion on these people who were “like sheep without a shepherd” (Mark 6:34).
Jesus Feeds 5,000 Opening Activity: Random Objects
Place the random objects into a basket. Make sure you have at least one per child, but it may be helpful to have a few extra so every child has a choice.
Welcome and greet children. Open your time by asking this question:
What’s your favorite food to eat at a picnic? (Allow responses).
Jesus and the disciples passed around a basket to collect food for the people who came to watch Jesus teach.
Have your students pass around a basket full of random objects so they can learn more about one another.
To begin, invite your class to sit together in a circle. Give one kid the basket of random objects and have her choose one object from the basket.
Continue to pass around the basket so that every student is able to select an object.
Then, have kids take a moment and brainstorm why they think those particular items appealed to them.
A paper clip, for example, could show that a child is organized. Encourage kids to use as much creativity as possible with their answers.
After a few moments, go around the circle and have each student share about his object.
Jesus Feeds 5,000 Storytelling
Bible Passage: Matthew 14:13–21; John 6:1–15
Print three to four copies of the Loaves and Fishes template and cut the shapes out. On the butcher paper, write the word “Compassion” in big letters across the top.
In one corner of the room, place the faux fur coat. Place the cardboard box and the scarf in the second corner of the room. Place the baskets in another corner of the room, and scatter the loaves and fish cutouts around the baskets. In the fourth corner of the room, tape the “Compassion” sign to the wall at a level the children can reach. Place the marker next to the sign.
Lead children in a Prayer of Release to pause, be still, and ask the Holy Spirit to quiet their hearts and minds. Tell the kids that you need their help telling The Big God Story today.
Ask for one volunteer who will be John the Baptist. He can wear the faux fur and stand in one corner of the room.
Invite another child to be Jesus. This student should put the scarf over one shoulder and tie it on the other side of his waist like a sash. He should sit in the box in another corner of the room.
Ask another student to stand in a third corner of the room with the two baskets and fish and bread.
Ask for a volunteer who enjoys writing to be willing to help with writing out ideas once you get to the fourth corner of the room at the end of Storytelling.
Encourage the kids to gather around “John the Baptist” in the first corner of the room.
What are some of the things John the Baptist did? Invite answers.
John the Baptist was a prophet who called people back to God. He served God with his whole life. He was kind of an odd guy. He wore camel hair and ate locusts.
Point to the student portraying John the Baptist.
But he loved God very much. He called people to repent, and he baptized them in the Jordan River.
However, not everyone liked John the Baptist. King Herod and his wife didn’t like John because he reminded them that they’d sinned.
Because of this, the queen wanted John the Baptist dead. Eventually she got her wish, and the king had John killed.
When Jesus heard the news about John, He was very sad. John was His cousin, and John had baptized Jesus.
Invite the kids to follow you to the second corner of the room.
Jesus wanted to be alone so that He could grieve what had happened to John. He got into a boat, and He went off to a place where He could be by Himself.
Point to “Jesus” in the “boat.”
But so many people wanted to be near Jesus and hear what He had to say.
Have the kids turn to Matthew 14:14, and invite them to follow along while you read the verse aloud or ask a volunteer to read it.
Jesus had left so that He could be alone, but when He saw all of the people who needed Him, He had compassion on them. He began to serve people by healing those who were sick.
Does anyone know what it means to be compassionate? Invite responses.
When you feel compassion, it means that you have a strong feeling of concern or a desire to help someone who is in need. We might feel compassion for those who are sick or left out or poor or hurting.
Jesus wanted to be by Himself, but because He is compassionate, He took time to heal those who were hurting.
People began to gather to hear Jesus speak. The Bible says that there were five thousand men there plus women and children!
So many thousands of people had come to listen to Jesus, but now they were getting hungry. They stayed all day, and when evening came, the disciples came up to Jesus.
Because they were in a remote place that wasn’t by a town, they thought it would be best to send the people away so that they could get something to eat.
Invite a volunteer to read Matthew 14:16 aloud while the kids follow along.
But Jesus didn’t want to send everyone away, and instead He told the disciples to feed the people.
Ask a volunteer to read Matthew 14:17 aloud.
They only had five loaves of bread and two fish among all of them! There was no way they could feed everyone.
Invite the kids to go to the third corner of the room.
Although there seemed to be no way to feed everyone, Jesus knew what needed to be done.
Who remembers what happened next? Invite the kids to respond.
Yes! Jesus took the bread and fish, and He lifted them to heaven. He thanked God for the food, and then He began to pass it out. Everyone there was able to eat.
In fact, the disciples collected 12 baskets of leftovers after everyone had eaten!
Point to the student with the baskets, and point to the fishes and loaves scattered on the ground.
Jesus did an amazing miracle and served all of the people who had come to hear Him. He taught them about God and then showed them His great compassion by feeding them until they were completely full!
Invite a volunteer to read John 6:14 aloud.
Jesus did this amazing miracle, and people began to understand who He was. He was the Messiah God had promised so long ago. God, in His great compassion, had kept His promise and sent Jesus into the world!
Invite all of the kids to move to the fourth corner of the room and sit down. Ask the volunteer to stand next to the butcher paper with “Compassion” on it.
Jesus is compassionate. Although He’d wanted to be by Himself, when He saw the people who needed Him, He had compassion on them. He began to serve them by healing them and feeding them.
When we accept Jesus’ gift of salvation, the Holy Spirit comes to live in us. He helps us to be compassionate and to serve others like God does.
God invites us to serve and share with those in need around us. What are some ways we can show compassion by serving others?
Invite the kids to respond. As they give ideas, the volunteer can write them on the piece of butcher paper.
Kids might suggest that they volunteer, share with others about Jesus’ gospel, be kind to those who are sick, give money to the poor, etc.
These are all great suggestions. Let’s think about how we can serve others and show Jesus’ compassion to the people in our lives. Jesus is compassionate, and He invites us to be compassionate too.
Share about a time when you felt compassion for someone or when someone showed compassion for you
Jesus Feeds 5,000 Discussion Questions
- Why did Jesus want to be alone? Matthew 14:12–13
- What happened when Jesus saw the crowd? Matthew 14:14
- What does it mean to be compassionate?
- Who are some people who have had compassion for you?
- How did Jesus serve the people?
- How many people did Jesus feed with the fish and bread? Matthew 14:21
- Who are some people you can show compassion to?
- What are some ways you can serve in your community?
The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.Psalm 145:8
Jesus Feeds 5,000 Game: Balloon Pop
Cut a sheet of paper into six strips, and write a different phrase of the Remember Verse on each strip of paper.
Use the following phrases to break up the verse: The Lord/is gracious/and compassionate/slow to anger/and rich/in love.
Then, place each phrase inside a different balloon. Blow up the balloons and tie them shut.
Leader Tip: If any of your children are sensitive to loud noises, you might modify this activity by taping each strip of paper to a small ball, tossing the balls around the room, and asking the kids to gather the balls and work to put the verse in order.
Review the Remember Verse with your class a few times.
Then, invite the children to jump on the balloons that have the words and phrases from the Remember Verse inside.
Once all of the balloons have been popped, have the children work together to put the verse in order. When they’re finished, invite the class to say it together.
Jesus Feeds 5,000 Activity: Blessing Bags
Contact parents ahead of time and let them know about today’s activity. Invite parents to partner with you and help donate supplies for the Blessing Bags or go shopping with their children to purchase some of the items.
Compassion is more than a feeling—it’s an action. Throughout the New Testament there are many examples of how Jesus showed compassion to others.
What are some examples you can think of? Pause for answers. Those are great thoughts.
In today’s portion of The Big God Story, Jesus’ compassion for the hurting and hungry crowd led Him to action. There are people in our own community who are hurting and having a hard time.
In this time together, we have an opportunity to show compassion to people who are in our area by creating Blessing Bags.
Each of you can fill up a bag with one of each of the various items. Then, you can write a note to put into your bag.
Suggest that your kids write encouraging words or Scriptures on the cards.
When students are finished putting their bags together, invite the class to spend time praying over the bags and the people who will receive them.
Then, have kids take their bags with them and look for people to deliver the bags to during the next few weeks.
Jesus Feeds 5,000 (Optional) Game: Basket Scramble
After listening to Jesus speak all day, the thousands of people who had gathered to hear Him became very hungry. Jesus had compassion on His followers and performed a miracle to multiply the food.
After the people were full, the disciples scrambled around and picked up 12 baskets of leftover food!
Invite your class to play a game where they must scramble to gather all of the random items that have been placed on the floor. To begin, scatter 50 different small items on the floor.
Then, set your timer to one minute and see how many items the class can pick up during that time.
When the students are finished, scatter the items again and see how many objects the kids can pick up in even less time.
- Was it hard to find every object on the floor? How does it make you feel to know that no matter what is happening in a person’s life, God has compassion on that person?
- How do you hope God will open your heart to have compassion for others?
Before you bless the children in your group, pray about the blessing that God would have you give to them.
Invite children to stand together in a circle as you read the blessing from Lamentations 3:22–23:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
May you know God’s great love and compassion never fails. May you know His great faithfulness to you.
Then, go to each child individually and pray the following blessing over her:
(Child’s name), may you find ways to share God’s love and compassion with others this week.
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