Let a lattice gas of constant density, described by the symmetric simple exclusion process, be brought in contact with a "target": a spherical absorber of radius R. Employing the macroscopic fluctuation theory (MFT), we evaluate the probability P(T) that no gas particle hits the target until a long but finite time T. We also find the most likely gas density history conditional on the nonhitting. The results depend on the dimension of space d and on the rescaled parameter =R/D0T, where D0 is the gas diffusivity. For small and d>2, P(T) is determined by an exact stationary solution of the MFT equations that we find. For large , and for any in one dimension, the relevant MFT solutions are nonstationary. In this case, lnP(T) scales differently with relevant parameters, and it also depends on whether the initial condition is random or deterministic. The latter effects also occur if the lattice gas is composed of noninteracting random walkers. Finally, we extend the formalism to a whole class of diffusive gases of interacting particles.