What I find interesting about this passage is that Jesus "made" them get into the boat, to go on ahead of him. The disciples found themselves in a tempest on the sea, but not because of anything they did wrong. It was not a random accident or because of poor choices they made. They were there because Jesus told them to go there. Jesus knew there was a storm brewing and he sent his friends into the midst of it.
Can you imagine what the disciples thought? First of all, they were fishermen. They had surely seen storms before, but this one really frightened them. They knew what the outcome could be. But they also knew Jesus could calm the winds and waves. Just a few chapters back, Matthew records another bleak night on the sea. Jesus was asleep in the boat when his disciples woke him up to save them from the storm. But where was Jesus now? It was the fourth watch of the night--between 3am and 6am. These men had been struggling for many long hours.
You know Jesus is aware of the storm. He knows everything! But where is he? Why would he do this? His people desperately cry out to him. Then Jesus comes to them. But the disciples are terrified and don't recognize him--until they hear his voice. "Take heart. It is I. Do not be afraid."
When we can't see him, we must trust him. We watch for him when the thunderous waves rage against us and our boat threatens to dump us into the sea. We wait to hear his voice. Jesus is close. He promised he would never leave us to face the storm on our own.
A little verse by Charles Spurgeon sums it up:
"O angel of my God, be near, Amid the darkness hush my fear; Loud roars the wild tempestuous sea, Thy presence, Lord, shall comfort me."