Biologically, there is no death, only recycling of materials. Psychologically, in human lives, we say "the fruit falls close to the tree." This is a reference to the easily observable and frequent phenomenon that our human offspring bear a notable resemblance in form, attitude and action to ourselves. Whether cycles of success or cycles of abuse, the patterns of living tend to repeat, if not strictly or literally, at least cyclically.
However life evolves, it persists, even when destruction and death are cataclysmic, though the latter is infrequent, fortunately. Looking more deeply, it is fair to ask whether the two are related: is the death of one the necessary prerequisite for the birth of the other?
Imagine if humans simply never died. This earth would be a big, big mess, wouldn't it? If Michelangelo still lived today, how would that impact the creativity and optimism of new and struggling artists? Extended families would be like unto small countries. I don't think it would be "pretty." Extend this to all biological forms and well, gee, need I say more? Have I then, not answered the question in the affirmative and satisfactorily?
To achieve success in business, in marriage, in health, in spiritual growth, someone has "to die." Some sacrifice has to be made. Someone gets "crucified." It is the "way." To make one choice means to turn away from a plethora of other possibilities. It cannot be helped and it is necessary.
The crucifixion of Jesus was necessary for his resurrection just as it is for you and I in ordinary life choices. It was not necessary for his spiritual benefit, but for ours: for the example he gave to us. The spiritual path is too narrow for the ego and the soul to walk it together, hand in hand. Yet this is what most religionists and spiritual seekers invariably do. We want it all. Millions practice meditation and read eastern teachings and find great inspiration but few want to have a guru or even understand what that really means.
A case can made (and my guru, Paramhansa Yogananda taught that it is so) that Jesus had a guru: Elijah (Elias in the Greek). It was to Elias that he called out from the cross. It was Elias that he saw on Mt. Tabor in the transfiguration (along with Moses). It's deeper than that. John the Baptist is the reincarnation of Elias (Elijah). It's the in Bible itself. [Read Micah, 5:2; Kings 1 19:9-15; Malachi 4:5-6 and the New Testament story of the the conception and birth of John the Baptist in Luke 1:15-17.] Jesus tacitly acknowledged Elias' reincarnation as John in Matt 11:13-15 and again in 17:10-11. Read and decide for yourself!
The one downside is that when John was asked whether he was Elias, he denied it [Luke 1:21]. Remember, however, that a few verses later [26-27] he said he was unworthy even to tie Jesus sandals! Whether as John, his former life and role as Elijah and guru to Jesus' [Elisha] was veiled from his consciousness or whether he was being purposely humble to support Jesus' dramatic role in history, and thereby evasive, cannot be known from the text itself but his denial stands in sharp contrast to Jesus' own words.
On the one hand millions, perhaps billions, profess to follow the teachings of one of the world teacher teachers (Jesus, Moses, Mohammet, Krishna, Buddha, etc.) , but do so half-heartedly, while many millions of others refuse to do so. One way or the other the teachings and life example of such great and history-changing prophets are crucified whether by indifference, ignorance, or misuse. In part, this is why world teachers must come again and again and into different cultures, according to the needs of the people and their ability to "hear."
Yogananda put it this way: "Jesus was crucified once, but his teachings have been crucified daily ever since."
One of the few books Yogananda recommended was "The Imitation of Christ" by Thomas a Kempis. Yogananda said this book is not just the imitation of Christ, "it is Christ."
Instead, the masses prefer sports heroes, politicians, actors, musicians, singers, and fashion celebrities. Such is the general consciousness of our times. Reason alone, and only a little would suffice, suggests that one who seeks spiritual truths and consciousness should seek it from those who have demonstrated they have it!
Jesus' disciples called him "Master" as Yogananda's disciples did. Not because the guru is the master of his disciples but because the guru has achieved self-mastery, even power over objective nature, demonstrated from time to time in the operation of so-called miraculous powers.
Jesus' life was not to show how great he was but how great we could be if we, too, would "follow Me." It saddens me to see so many sincere students of meditation and yoga philosophy dismiss the disciple-guru relationship as irrelevant to and unwanted in their lives. Their meditation practices, however sincere, would bear fruit more quickly were their hearts open to God in human form. How can we profess to be innately, even potentially, divine if we cannot receive divinity more completely in any human form? In describing the role of Jesus, the first Chapter of John declares "As many as received him gave he the power to become the sons of God." We are not different in kind from Jesus, only in the degree of our Self-realization.
As John the Baptist put it for himself and for each of us, "He (Jesus) must increase but I (John) must decrease." The surrender and death of ego are the price for the resurrection of our soul. God takes human form through the souls of those who are "one with the Father." As Krishna put it in the Bhagavad Gita, O Bharata, whenever virtue declines and vice predominates, I incarnate on earth. Taking visible form, I come to destroy evil and re-establish virtue.
Thus the eternal law of death and rebirth find expression in the soul's discarding the cocoon of ignorance and ego to emerge as the butterfly of the soul. The midwife of this rebirth is God in the form of guru who comes to instruct and to transmit the spiritual power to uplift us from the confinement (darkness) of ego consciousness. "Guru" means "dispeller of darkness."
It is through hardship, effort, trial and tribulation that the soul emerges and takes the helm of the ship of its own destiny. No less than any of the best professional or artistic mentors, the guru wants nothing for himself and has everything to give. As in John 10:10: "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."
As we celebrate Easter, the promise of redemption and resurrection, and the life of Jesus Christ (and all the masters who sacrifice in returning to human form), let us also willingly carry the cross of ego transcendence and of our own karmic burdens. Let us do so with joy because we know the path leads to freedom. In taking on our soul's task we don't have to wait for a future reward, because in right action we receive the joy of the soul. The so-called crown of thorns is what the ego wears but the same crown, to the soul, is the symbol of its self-mastery and its royalty as a child of God.
Study the lives of the masters and following one whose footsteps resonate with your own, attune your heart, mind and actions to the "imitation of (the universal, omnipresent and immanent) Christ (in human form)." Imitation means service to the guru's work; study of the guru's teachings; fellowship with one's "gurubhais,", and meditation & prayer according to the guru's way. To marry one person is not to hate all others. Loyalty is the path to success in all endeavors and freedom for the soul. No longer must we shout, "My way, or the highway." To each his own, for all true paths lead to the One and we need (and can) only walk one.
Lastly, in contemplating the first anniversary of my teacher's passing (Swami Kriyananda, April 21, 2013), I would add that few souls will have the privilege to meet and follow a living Christ-like guru. It might take many lifetimes of sincere spiritual seeking to gain that blessing. Thus for most of us, the more readily available spiritual teachers must suffice. In this, I and thousands hold as an honor and a great blessing to have known and "followed" (i.e. served with) Swami Kriyananda, founder of Ananda and direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda. In India, members of Ananda put together a tribute of gratitude to "Swamiji" and you might find inspiration in viewing it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?
A blessed and happy Easter!