Bible Study Guides – Feeding the Multitude

June 25 – July 1, 2017

Key Text

“Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat” (Matthew 14:16).

Study Help: The Desire of Ages, 364–371.


“Often we hesitate, unwilling to give all that we have, fearing to spend and to be spent for others. But Jesus has bidden us, ‘Give ye them to eat’ (Matthew 14:16). His command is a promise; and behind it is the same power that fed the multitude beside the sea.” The Desire of Ages, 369. [Emphasis author’s.]



  •  Besides the disciples, who else accompanied Jesus? John 6:1, 2.

Note: “Christ had retired to a secluded place with His disciples, but this rare season of peaceful quietude was soon broken. The disciples thought they had retired where they would not be disturbed; but as soon as the multitude missed the divine Teacher, they inquired, ‘Where is He?’ Some among them had noticed the direction in which Christ and His disciples had gone. Many went by land to meet them, while others followed in their boats across the water. The Passover was at hand, and, from far and near, bands of pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem gathered to see Jesus. Additions were made to their number, until there were assembled five thousand men besides women and children. Before Christ reached the shore, a multitude were waiting for Him.” The Desire of Ages, 364.

  • What was the spiritual condition of the people? Mark 6:34.

Note: “He [Christ] ‘was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd’ (Mark 6:34). Leaving His retreat, He found a convenient place where He could minister to them. They received no help from the priests and rulers; but the healing waters of life flowed from Christ as He taught the multitude the way of salvation.” The Desire of Ages, 364, 365.



  •  Besides satisfying the spiritual needs of the people, with what else did Jesus concern Himself? John 6:3–5.

Note: “He who taught the people the way to secure peace and happiness was just as thoughtful of their temporal necessities as of their spiritual need. The people were weary and faint. There were mothers with babes in their arms, and little children clinging to their skirts. Many had been standing for hours. They had been so intensely interested in Christ’s words that they had not once thought of sitting down, and the crowd was so great that there was danger of their trampling on one another. Jesus would give them a chance to rest, and He bade them sit down. There was much grass in the place, and all could rest in comfort.” The Desire of Ages, 365, 366.

  • What did Jesus say to Philip and with what intention? John 6:5, 6.
  • What did Philip answer Jesus? John 6:7.

Note: “The day seemed to them [the people] like heaven upon earth, and they were utterly unconscious of how long it had been since they had eaten anything.

“At length the day was far spent. The sun was sinking in the west, and yet the people lingered. Jesus had labored all day without food or rest. He was pale from weariness and hunger, and the disciples besought Him to cease from His toil. But He could not withdraw Himself from the multitude that pressed upon Him.

“The disciples finally came to Him, urging that for their own sake the people should be sent away. Many had come from far, and had eaten nothing since morning. In the surrounding towns and villages they might be able to buy food. But Jesus said, ‘Give ye them to eat’ (Luke 9:13), and then, turning to Philip, questioned, ‘Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?’ (John 6:5). This He said to test the faith of the disciple. Philip looked over the sea of heads, and thought how impossible it would be to provide food to satisfy the wants of such a crowd. He answered that two hundred pennyworth of bread would not be nearly enough to divide among them, so that each might have a little.” The Desire of Ages, 365.



  •  What information did Andrew give to Jesus? John 6:8, 9.

Note: “Jesus inquired how much food could be found among the company. ‘There is a lad here,’ said Andrew, ‘which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?’ (John 6:9).” The Desire of Ages, 365.

  • What plan did Jesus suggest to keep order among the hungry multitude? John 6:10.

Note: “Jesus directed that these [the five barley loaves and two fishes] be brought to Him. Then He bade the disciples seat the people on the grass in parties of fifty or a hundred, to preserve order, and that all might witness what He was about to do.” The Desire of Ages, 365.

  • Explain the sequence of actions Christ took in multiplying the food. John 6:11; Matthew 14:19.

Note: “When this [order] was accomplished, Jesus took the food, ‘and looking up to heaven, He blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to His disciples, and the disciples to the multitude’ (Matthew 14:19). ‘And they did all eat, and were filled. And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments, and of the fishes’ (Mark 6:42, 43). …

“Christ never worked a miracle except to supply a genuine necessity, and every miracle was of a character to lead the people to the tree of life, whose leaves are for the healing of the nations. The simple food passed round by the hands of the disciples contained a whole treasure of lessons. It was humble fare that had been provided; the fishes and barley loaves were the daily food of the fisher folk about the Sea of Galilee. Christ could have spread before the people a rich repast, but food prepared merely for the gratification of appetite would have conveyed no lesson for their good. Christ taught them in this lesson that the natural provisions of God for man had been perverted. And never did people enjoy the luxurious feasts prepared for the gratification of perverted taste as this people enjoyed the rest and the simple food which Christ provided so far from human habitations. …

“Selfishness and the indulgence of unnatural taste have brought sin and misery into the world, from excess on the one hand, and from want on the other.” The Desire of Ages, 365–367.



  •  What lesson did Jesus teach the disciples after feeding the multitude? John 6:12, 13.

 Note: “After the multitude had been fed, there was an abundance of food left. But He who had all the resources of infinite power at His command said, ‘Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost’ (John 6:12). These words meant more than putting the bread into the baskets. The lesson was twofold. Nothing is to be wasted. We are to let slip no temporal advantage. We should neglect nothing that will tend to benefit a human being. Let everything be gathered up that will relieve the necessity of earth’s hungry ones. And there should be the same carefulness in spiritual things. When the baskets of fragments were collected, the people thought of their friends at home. They wanted them to share in the bread that Christ had blessed. The contents of the baskets were distributed among the eager throng, and were carried away into all the region round about. So those who were at the feast were to give to others the bread that comes down from heaven, to satisfy the hunger of the soul. They were to repeat what they had learned of the wonderful things of God. Nothing was to be lost. Not one word that concerned their eternal salvation was to fall useless to the ground.” The Desire of Ages, 368.

  • What lessons of cooperation can we learn from this experience? Mark 6:37–40; Luke 6:38; Galatians 6:6, 10.

Note: “In Christ’s act of supplying the temporal necessities of a hungry multitude is wrapped up a deep spiritual lesson for all His workers. Christ received from the Father; He imparted to the disciples; they imparted to the multitude; and the people to one another. So all who are united to Christ will receive from Him the bread of life, the heavenly food, and impart it to others. …

“Christ is the great center, the source of all strength. His disciples are to receive their supplies from Him. The most intelligent, the most spiritually minded, can bestow only as they receive. Of themselves they can supply nothing for the needs of the soul. We can impart only that which we receive from Christ; and we can receive only as we impart to others. As we continue imparting, we continue to receive; and the more we impart, the more we shall receive. Thus we may be constantly believing, trusting, receiving, and imparting.” The Desire of Ages, 369, 370.



  •  What additional spiritual lessons can we learn from the multiplication of the food? Mark 4:26–28.

Note: “In feeding the five thousand, Jesus lifts the veil from the world of nature, and reveals the power that is constantly exercised for our good. In the production of earth’s harvests God is working a miracle every day. Through natural agencies the same work is accomplished that was wrought in the feeding of the multitude. Men prepare the soil and sow the seed, but it is the life from God that causes the seed to germinate. It is God’s rain and air and sunshine that cause it to put forth, ‘first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear’ (Mark 4:28). It is God who is every day feeding millions from earth’s harvest fields. Men are called upon to co-operate with God in the care of the grain and the preparation of the loaf, and because of this they lose sight of the divine agency. They do not give God the glory due unto His holy name. The working of His power is ascribed to natural causes or to human instrumentality. …

“The miracle of the loaves teaches a lesson of dependence upon God. When Christ fed the five thousand, the food was not nigh at hand. Apparently He had no means at His command. Here He was, with five thousand men, besides women and children, in the wilderness. He had not invited the large multitude to follow Him; they came without invitation or command; but He knew that after they had listened so long to His instruction, they would feel hungry and faint; for He was one with them in their need of food. They were far from home, and the night was close at hand. Many of them were without means to purchase food. He who for their sake had fasted forty days in the wilderness would not suffer them to return fasting to their homes. The providence of God had placed Jesus where He was; and He depended on His heavenly Father for the means to relieve the necessity.” The Desire of Ages, 367, 368.



 1      What was Christ’s main interest in the people?

2      Why did Jesus supply the physical necessities of the people?

3      Explain Christ’s method to maintain the hungry multitude in order.

4      How did Jesus include the disciples in the work of feeding the people?

5      After feeding the people, what other important lesson did Jesus teach?

Copyright © 2004 Reformation Herald Publishing Association, 5240 Hollins Road, Roanoke, Virginia. Reprinted by permission.