A young person working in a shop. Photo: Tom Price/Integral Alliance

From: Youth – Footsteps 109

How to engage with young people and support them to flourish

In all four of the gospels, Jesus is recorded performing a miracle, usually known as the feeding of the five thousand.

Read Matthew 14:13–21 and John 6:1–15.

Jesus and his disciples are looking for a quiet place to rest, but they are being followed by a large number of people. When Jesus sees them, he is filled with compassion and he heals those who are unwell (Matthew 14:14).

Too expensive

In the evening the disciples want to send the people away so they can go and buy food from the surrounding villages. But Jesus decides to test his disciples (John 6:6). Already knowing what he is going to do, he asks them to feed the crowd. They are shocked! Philip says, ‘It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!’ 

Despite all the wonderful things they have seen Jesus do – including miraculous healings earlier that day – the disciples cannot see beyond the immediate problem. ‘We cannot do this. It is too difficult. Too expensive.’ They lose sight of who Jesus is and that for him, nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37).

We all have a part to play in God’s kingdom. No matter how young or old we are, we can bless others with our words and actions. Illustration: Wingfinger

We all have a part to play in God’s kingdom. No matter how young or old we are, we can bless others with our words and actions. Illustration: Wingfinger


A search in the crowd reveals a boy who is willing to give the food he has with him to Jesus. But Andrew is just as doubtful as Philip: ‘Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?’ (John 6:9). Jesus takes the gift brought by the boy, gives thanks to God and multiplies it. Everyone has plenty to eat, and there is even food left over.

God’s power

Sometimes the needs around us can seem so big that, like the disciples, we feel there is nothing we can do. This miracle is a reminder that however small and insignificant we feel, we need to play our part. 

Jesus could have miraculously put food into the hands of each person in the crowd, but he chose to involve the boy – and the disciples – in his work. He wants us to get involved and we need to trust that he will give us what we need to serve him well. Like the boy, we should bring what we can, and trust God to do the rest.

Discussion questions

Written by

Written by Gerson J Ramírez

Gerson Ramírez is a member of Tearfund’s community of young theologians, Micah Youth Network and Transform Youth (see Overcoming violence with love). Gerson is a theology and development consultant across El Salvador and Central America.

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